Photo Credit: Mark Neiman / GPO
President Reuven Rivlin with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov

“Regional and security matters” were on the agenda when President Reuven Rivlin met Wednesday with United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, but the main focus, obviously, was Gaza, and a message to Israel to work with Egypt and the UN on ramping down the tensions with Hamas, “or else.”

Israel’s president was courteous as he always is, but this time, also completely direct.

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“Last night, missiles were fired on us from Gaza. Only the quick response of a mother saved the lives of her children. Men, women and children all spent the night in shelters. Israel will not stand by while our people are under attack, and the world must know that,” he said.

“As long as Gaza is controlled by Hamas it is responsible for every attack on Israel. Hamas continues to hold the people of Gaza hostage, bringing them destruction and suffering,” Rivlin added. “So long as the missiles and the provocation continue on, there is no chance of easing the suffering of the people of Gaza.”

In his reply, Mladenov said the last 24 hours had been “particularly complicated” and called the rocket attack that destroyed a woman’s home in Be’er Sheva a “dangerous escalation of the situation.” He made no reference to the fact that had there been no bomb shelter built into the home itself, she and her three children would never have made it out alive. Nor did he refer to the fact that they and three others required treatment for shock at a nearby hospital.

His main concern was how the attacks could drag Israel and Gaza into another deadly war.

“It is our responsibility to do everything possible to avoid that confrontation,” Mladenov said. “I want to assure you that over the last three months we have worked very actively with all parties – with the government of Israel, with the Palestinian Authority, with the regional players, particularly with Egypt and the international community – to pursue three goals.

“Firstly, to avoid a war which would be devastating for the people of Gaza and for the Israelis who live across the border. Secondly, to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the people who live in really terrible conditions. And thirdly, to support our joint efforts with Egypt to bring the legitimate Palestinian Authority back into control of Gaza,” he said.

This is the only path forward and we need to make sure that in the next 48 hours we really see a de-escalation on the ground so that these efforts can continue in the interests of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and in the interests of peace in the entire region. I am afraid that there is no more time for words,” Mladenov said.

“Now is the time for actions. And we must see very clear actions on all sides that bring the situation to a de-escalation. Otherwise, the consequences will be terrible for everyone.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.