In his work at the Sderot Media Center, Bedein tours and educates visitors on the truth about Israel’s conflict with Gaza, and the reality of Israeli residents living on the border of the Gaza terror zone.
“As the only active media center, we have nonstop work, hosting foreign press, embassies, diplomats, student groups – we had 1,800 people in July,” Bedein said, adding that 85% of visitors are students and young adults. “I explain to them that rocket fire from Gaza has impacted over 1,000,000 people in the 40 kilometers from Gaza. No other place in the western world has rockets being fired and effecting civilian populations in such a way,” he said.
“Groups want to know why we provide humanitarian aid to Gaza which ultimately is used against us – like sugar and fertilizer, which are used in Kassam rockets,” Bedein said. “Israel supplies 70% of Gaza electricity. Metal for the Kassams comes from sewage pipes we put into Gaza.”
“A professor who visited today from Seattle asked how we could deal with Iran if we can’t deal with these primitive rockets.”
Bedein urged the government to invest in a public relations campaign for the western Negev. “Unbalanced media coverage, the demonization of Israel from Gaza, is one of the most dangerous things for Israel,” Bedein said. “Most people don’t know that 97% of rockets being fired on Israel from Gaza are fired from among civilian populations. If you don’t have a balance of understanding, you can’t expect Israel to be able to do anything about what’s going on. We’re up against the Gaza narrative.”
Apart from warnings for the western Negev, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau last week urged Israeli tourists in Sinai to return to Israel immediately, due to threats that Al-Qaida-backed terrorists would abduct Israelis from the area.
Following the IAF strike, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement praising the IDF and the Shin Bet for their “precise operation” in Gaza, saying “all those who intend to harm us should know our long arm will reach them”.
However, Israel’s Maariv newspaper reported that the prime minister also agreed to release 50 Palestinian inmate, some of them convicted prior to the start of the Oslo process, if the Palestinians abandon their efforts to seek statehood at the UN, and if PA President Mahmoud Abbas agrees to meet Netanyahu for renewed peace talks. To date, Abbas has refused to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu, demanding Israel freeze all Jewish building in Judea and Samaria and release over 100 Palestinian prisoners.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) replied that Israel had made several “goodwill gestures” to entice the Palestinians into negotiations, including asking the International Monetary Fund for a $100 million loan to the PA in July, which was rejected because the PA isn’t a state. Abbas is said to be planning to ask the UN General Assembly in September to recognize Palestine as a non-member state.
Last month, Israel advanced NIS 180 million to the PA in tax transfers to help the authority through the financial difficulties ahead of the month of Ramadan.
Israel is also ready to allow the PA to take advantage of the unused natural gas field off the Gaza coast if they abandon their UN statehood mission.
Though the PMO said a failure to return to the negotiating table by the PA would constitute “a grave violation of all agreements”, it is unclear if there would be any real repercussions on the part of Israel or negotiations-backer US if the PA does not acquiesce.