FM Livni: The threat of terror from Gaza is growing larger from year to year.
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)
Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni today hosted the foreign ambassadors and diplomatic corps serving in Israel on a visit to the Coordination and Liaison Administration at Erez, together with senior Foreign Ministry officials. There they met with Brig. Gen. Moshe Tamir, commander of the IDF Gaza Division, and Col. Nir Press, head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration.
At the outset of the visit, Foreign Minister Livni said: "Israel took the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. We offered the Palestinians hope, and the situation prevailing in the region is one of terror. Hamas is gaining strength in Gaza. The international community supported the withdrawal of the IDF forces from the Philadelphi Corridor as well, and Hamas is exploiting this to build an army which is small in numbers but is powerful within Gaza. The decision-makers in Israel and the world must take note of this.
Our strategy was and still is to distinguish between moderates and extemists, between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Hamas is an extremist Islamic terror organization that must be fought, and its delegitimization must be maintained.
We are continuing negotiations with the moderates in the Palestinian Authority, but we need to be realistic. The negotiations themselves will not solve the problems created by Gaza, certainly not in a short period of time. On the contrary – the situation in Gaza will affect our ability to implement the outcome of these negotiations.
The understanding reached in Annapolis is that we will negotiate, but the negotiations are subject to the full implementation of the Roadmap. The Roadmap is based on the idea that the creation of a Palestinian state goes through a war on terrorism. The change on the ground must come before the establishment of a Palestinian state, if it is to include the Gaza Strip.
There are three things that we cannot agree to: we will not permit the establishment of a terrorist state, we cannot accept an extremist Islamic state on Israel’s border, and we cannot afford a weak, failed state.
In our current negotiations with the Palestinians, this is something which is on the table and I believe this is a mutual interest. The substance of the negotiations must provide a real answer to the negative experience of Gaza. Any future agreement must therefore ensure Israel’s security needs.
Any future agreement will be subject to the situation on the ground and must change this situation. Gaza is controlled by Hamas and this clearly affects the future of the Palestinians. Israel does not want to punish all the Palestinians and the situation must change.
Israel has adopted a dual strategy – continued pressure on the terror organizations and negotiations with the moderates in the Palestinian Authority. This is the correct policy. Israel is fighting terror, and will continue to fight terror. This is our duty. Providing an answer to the threat of terror in the region is not only Israel’s interest; it must also be the interest of the Palestinian moderates and of the entire international community which supports the peace process.
Brig. Gen. Moshe Tamir, commander of the IDF Gaza Division, presented to the diplomatic corps the scope of the terror threats directed against Israel from the Gaza Strip. Col. Nir Press, head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration presented evidence of the exploitation of international institutions for the firing of Kassams by the terror organizations and reviewed the scope of humanitarian aid currently being supplied to the Gaza Strip.
After this briefing, Foreign Minister Livni said: "The situation in the region is unbearable, and the threat of terror from Gaza is growing larger from year to year. The problem is not only the Kassam rockets, but also the strengthening of the terror organizations. Israel must act to reduce these threats. Even if there is a lull in the shooting – don’t let this quiet deceive you. The terror organizations are growing in strength, and planning for the future must be based on an understanding of this threat in the present.
The world must understand the true nature of Hamas. Its actions are not related to occupation, and the fact is that it persists in pursuing terrorism after Israel left Gaza. Hamas is affiliated with extreme Islamic organizations in the region and threatens not only Israel but also the moderates in the Palestinian Authority. We are not naive, and do not believe that political dialogue can provide an answer to this ideology."
The foreign ambassadors then visited the Sha’ar Hanegev educational campus which has come under attack by Kassam rockets.