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What Would Any Country Do?

It’s very difficult when a democratic country has to confront an illegal terrorist group. Whatever we do is being photographed; whatever they do, nobody sees. For example, when they throw a rocket on a settlement in Israel, it’s not being photographed. You cannot see a mother trying to defend her child and the resultant sleepless night. Have you ever seen on television a sleepless night?

Sixty-two percent of Palestinians voted for Mahmoud Abbas as their president, and so we negotiate with him. Hamas participated in the elections but they have a very unique idea about democracy. They think democracy means that one day in four years you go through an election. After the election you can start to shoot and kill and threaten. Finish.

Democracy is not a matter of elections. It is a civilization.

I want to quote from the Hamas Charter:

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him…. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

This is an official charter.

Over the past eight years, Israel lost 1,167 lives at the hands of terrorists, with 8,500 wounded. We restrained all the time. And in the last four years, more than 5,000 rockets and 4,000 mortars were fired on civilians in Israel at random; they didn’t care if they hit a kindergarten. We didn’t answer. For that reason, the cease-fire idea was very strange to us. We never started a fire. And we told the Palestinians time and again, “Don’t fire and there won’t be fire.”

Israel left Gaza completely. We took all our soldiers from Gaza, all our civilians. People talk about settlements. We took out from Gaza all the settlements and all the settlers. Nobody forced us, it was our own choice, at great emotional and financial cost.

I want to understand: Why did Hamas fire rockets against us? What for? There was not any siege against Gaza. All the passages were open. Not only that, we participated in investing money in Gaza, in developing agriculture. They destroyed it. Why? They bombed all the passages. Why?

Why did they fire at us, what did they want?

There was never a day of starvation in Gaza. Israel is the supplier of water daily to Gaza, Israel is the supplier of fuel to Gaza. The only things we didn’t permit them to bring in were rockets from Iran. And so they built tunnels to do it.

We also have women and children, and they want to sleep at night. Do you know what it means to have almost a hundred rockets a day falling at random, with a million people having to be put under shelter? They came to the government and said, “What happened to you? We want have security, why do you permit this to happen?”

A million people every night hiding themselves in shelters. I never saw anyone demonstrating against those missiles from Hamas. Nobody said a word. And we didn’t answer. Day in and a day out, year in and year out. But there’s a limit.

I ask again, what was the purpose of these attacks against our civilians? Peace? We made peace with Egypt not by arms, but by agreement and negotiation. We made peace with Jordan the same way.

We opened with the Palestinians and told them we were for a Palestinian state. I started that in Oslo, against probably the majority of our people who didn’t agree. Later, when I was prime minister, I saw with my own eyes the blood and the bodies after suicide bombings. When I would go to the scene of such attacks people would shout at me, “Traitor, killer, look at what you did to us.”

Israel is sixty years old. Do you know any other country that in sixty years has had to go through seven wars, two intifadas, and an ongoing boycott? And in spite of it, we made peace with Egypt and Jordan. By the way, President Mubarak blamed Hamas, not Israel, for the violence in Gaza, as did President Abbas.

About the Author: Shimon Peres is the president of Israel.

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It’s very difficult when a democratic country has to confront an illegal terrorist group. Whatever we do is being photographed; whatever they do, nobody sees. For example, when they throw a rocket on a settlement in Israel, it’s not being photographed. You cannot see a mother trying to defend her child and the resultant sleepless night. Have you ever seen on television a sleepless night?

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