‘We’re Fed Up With Empty Gestures’

Daily News Article   —   Posted on January 6, 2009

(from the JerusalemPost.com) – [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that United Nations Security Council discussions on a cease-fire in Gaza should not be taking place at the moment because an opportunity must be given for an effective, regional Middle East process that all countries involved would be fully committed to in order to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians.

Speaking during a Jerusalem meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Czech Republic Foreign Minister Karl Schwarzenberg and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, the prime minister said Israel would only agree to a cease-fire in exchange for concrete measures that ensure immediate security for [those living in southern Israel who are being hit by Hamas rockets].

“This is the time for action not words. We are fed up with empty gestures,” he said, according to [Israeli] Army Radio.

Olmert told the three foreign ministers that while he respected the UN and its institutions, an immediate, unconditional cease-fire would not be the right way to bring about a solution to the Gaza situation. He said the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] operation would force Hamas to stop firing rockets.

Nevertheless, the prime minister said Israel would agree to a request to set up a joint humanitarian situation room with the European Union, Israel Radio reported.

On Monday night, Olmert urged French President Nicolas Sarkozy to prevent the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] from bringing to the floor a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, telling the French leader that Israel was forced into launching Operation Cast Lead out of a desire to defend the lives of its southern citizens.

“The goal of the operation is not to destroy the Hamas leadership, even though we are able to do this, as well,” Olmert told Sarkozy. “We defined from the very beginning a limited goal – to change the security situation in the South and to free thousands of citizens from the threat of terror.”

“In view of the diplomatic developments, it would be unwise to pass a resolution on the matter, since past experience has proven that Israel cannot afford restricting its freedom to act against terrorism – today Hamas, tomorrow Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaida,” he continued.

“Sometimes the need to find a compromise in the UN comes at Israel’s expense,” the premier said, adding that Israel has “experience in this matter.”

Olmert also expressed his opposition to a cease-fire agreement similar to the one which was accepted in June, implying that the first arrangement may have created a more perilous situation for Israel.

“I am a man of compromise,” he began. “I have conducted two negotiations in an effort to bring about compromise. However, on one thing I cannot compromise, and that is the security of Israeli citizens.”

“We will not be able to come to a compromise when Hamas is able to fire in another month or two on the Israeli population,” the prime minister said. “Before the ceasefire, Hamas had rockets that could reach as far as 20 kilometers. After the ceasefire, the range of their rockets grew to 40 kilometers, threatening the lives of a million Israelis.”

“We cannot reach a compromise that would enable Hamas to fire at yet more cities and towns in Israel,” he added.

Olmert reiterated US President George W. Bush’s statement, according to which the end result of the Gaza operation must be that Hamas “not only stops firing, but also lose its ability to fire in the future.”

The UNSC is set to meet on Tuesday [today] to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip, and France is currently residing as its president.

Similarly, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu called on France to thwart the cease-fire initiative, telling Sarkozy on Tuesday that the conditions were not yet right.

Netanyahu said that as long as weapons smuggling via the Philadelph Corridor continued, Hamas would easily succeed in replenishing its rocket supply.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev has indicated that Israel would consider not abiding by a resolution calling for an end to the Gaza operation, Army Radio said.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Jerusalem Post. Visit the website at jpost.com. 

Questions

1. In a meeting with several foreign ministers, what did Prime Minister Olmert say is the only way Israel would agree to a cease-fire?

2. What is Israel’s goal for their military actions in Gaza?

3. Why does Prime Minister Olmert say it would be unwise to pass a UN Security Council resolution on a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas?

4. What does Prime Minister Olmert think of the cease-fire agreement that Israel had signed with Hamas in June 2008?

5. What statistics did Prime Minister Olmert give about the range of Hamas rockets from before and after the June cease-fire?

6. Under “Resources” below, read the notes on the size of Israel, and look at the map of Israel to locate the Gaza Strip. Do you support the Israeli government’s decision to eliminate Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into Israel? Explain your answer.


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Background

ON THE ISRAELI-HAMAS CONFLICT: (most of this information is from wikipedia.org)

  • In 2005 Israel withdrew all troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in an effort to establish peace with Palestinians. In 2007 Hamas took control of Gaza after defeating Fatah in armed conflict. Hamas’ objective is to destroy the state of Israel.
  • Following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israel sealed its border crossing with Gaza, on the grounds that Fatah was no longer providing security, and imposed a blockade on the territory, except for humanitarian aid. (Egypt also closed its border with the Gaza Strip when fighting between Fatah and Hamas started on June 7, 2007.)
  • On December 19, 2008 when a six-month cease-fire between the Hamas-led de facto government of Gaza and Israel ended, Hamas refused to extend the cease-fire on the grounds that Israel was continuing a blockade on Gaza.
  • Israel started the operation against Hamas following a major increase in Hamas rocket attacks into Israel, culminating with 80 rockets fired into Israel on Christmas Eve. These Hamas rockets were and continue to be aimed at Israeli civilians.
  • Israel is targeting Hamas military targets. The government says that the attacks are being undertaken in order to destroy Hamas’ capability and motivation to launch future similar attacks on Israel.

Resources

NOTE:  The Philadelph Corridor referred to in paragraph 17 of the article is the narrow strip along the Egyptian border, separating Gaza from Egypt.  Many tunnels are dug in that area.  They are used by Hamas to smuggle weapons (and other goods) into Gaza.

THE SIZE OF ISRAEL:
263 miles long – North to South
Width: between 9 and 71 miles wide (East to West)
Comparison: Israel Area – slightly smaller than New Jersey

For background information on Hamas click here.

For a map of Israel and the Gaza Strip, go to wsj.com.