Here are the main points as I heard them:
Israel is currently preparing a ground invasion into Gaza.
The goal of the current Israeli air strikes (and of a ground invasion if that happens) is to free Israel from rockets from Gaza. It is a defensive goal.
In response to the claim that the threat of rockets was not ended the last time Israel invaded Gaza, Mark Regev said that in the real world we cannot expect perfect solutions but must look for the best possible solutions. After the last invasion (2008/09) Israel experienced a long period of quiet. Children for the first time knew a life free from fear of rockets.
Iranians have helped Hamas acquire the missiles.
In response to Hamas demands that Israel stop attacks on Gaza, opens the siege, stops operations in the West Bank, and releases the arrested Palestinians, Regev said if Hamas stops firing Israel will stop bombing Gaza. However, in the weeks leading up to this Israel warned them to stop firing rockets or suffer consequences.
Israel was taking every possible measure to prevent killing civilians. Not targeting people of Gaza. Israel did everything it could to avoid this fighting. Hamas has forced this war upon us all.
In response to interviewer’s question about most Palestinian casualties in the last ground invasion being civilians (using the B’Tselem figures), Regev said his figures were different and most casualties were combatants.
In response to Israel’s Deputy Chief of Staff’s declaration of the IDF doctrine that Israel targets its enemy’s civilian infrastructure as both a deterrent and to foment popular opposition to Israel’s enemies, Regev said Israel will be as surgical as possible.
Israel will try to target only terrorist infrastructure; if civilian infrastructure is used by the enemy it can be attacked.
Interviewer asked for response: Israel’s Defence Minister said Jewish terrorists who must be treated as terrorists. Does that mean they’ll face military, not criminal, court and if guilty their family homes will be bulldozed, as is normally the case?
Regev: They will be treated to the full arm of the law. PM spoke to father of murdered teenager and expressed deepest sympathy. The murderers will face a legal process.
Interviewer: Why is Israel so opposed to a unity govt of Hamas and Fatah? If Israel wants a two-state solution one would expect them to make peace with the unity government — you make peace with an enemy, not a friend.
Response: Hamas hasn’t changed. Current “cycle of violence” is direct offshoot of the unity government. By allowing Hamas to come into mainstream allows Hamas to build up in West Bank again. Mainstream Palestinian leaders can’t talk about peace if they are in a political alliance with those whom Israel has no right to exist and to whom all Israelis are legitimate targets.
Interviewer: If there is a ground war it won’t really be a war given the power imbalance.
Regev: You are missing one thing. Israel is being bombarded by rockets. No country would sit by and see its civilian population targeted by people across the frontier.
Then on Friday, this morning, there was an interview with Diana Buttu, Palestinian and former spokesperson and legal advisor for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The six minute interview is online here.
What is important is not so much the number of rockets versus the number Israeli air raids as the fact that the Palestinian rockets are very primitive compared with the most sophisticated weaponry being dropped by the Israelis on the Gaza Strip. This is why the casualty rate is so lopsided.
Interviewer: Israelis say that the criminal culpability of Hamas’s firing of rockets is not diminished by the success of Israel’s Iron Dome shield that has intercepted most rockets.
Buttu: Israel is trying to cover up the fact that this is a military occupation. The rockets are not coming from some stateless place outside. Gaza Strip and West Bank have been put under collective punishment now for three to four weeks and Gaza Strip has been under illegal blockade for seven years (people unable to get in or get out; goods must come via Israel). This is not an equal war as claimed by Israel but a one-sided aggression against the Palestinian people and war crimes and should be treated as such.
Interviewer: Do you accept that even primitive rockets fired indiscriminate into Israel is also a war crime?
Buttu: I don’t have any problem condemning those rockets; I’ve been outspoken against the firing of rockets for a long time. But it is important to keep in mind that our condemnation of that will not put an end to it. What will put an end to it is if we recognise what is causing it to happen in the first place:
- that Palestinians have been denied their freedom for 47 years
If you want to create an equal war then let’s give Palestinians F-16s and F-18s — but this is a situation of Israel trying to protect its occupation rather than trying to protect itself. Israel knows what the recipe is to stop all of this and it is to simply give the Palestinians their freedom.
Most fearing a repeat of the massacres of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. In 24 hours Israelis dropped more than 400 one tonne bombs on Gaza — more than all the artillery fired on Gaza in 2012.
The killing of the teenagers has triggered all of this. When the three Israeli teenagers were killed Israel came out very quickly and without any evidence blamed Hamas. Palestinians asked for evidence and offered to help Israel find the culprits. Though the three suspects were picked up in an area entirely under Israeli control they continued to blame the Palestinians for not doing enough to protect the Israeli settlers. Despite lack of evidence they placed Palestinians under collective punishment, arresting more than 500 and ransacking more than 2000, and when they named the three suspects they demolished three of their homes even though no evidence offered, no trial, no conviction.
Interviewer: Out of self-interest why wouldn’t Hamas simply stop firing the rockets to prevent another Operation Cast Lead?
Buttu: I do not speak for Hamas but I guess the reason is that they can see where this leads to. Even in times when there have not been any rockets fired and in times they have respected cease-fires, each and every cease-fire has been broken by Israel. More importantly the Palestinians are still living under a brutal military siege, a siege that the international community has condemned. If we continue to talk about cease fires we won’t get to any long-term solution. We need to bring in a protection force to protect Palestinians and to address the root causes (the political issues) and address legitimate Palestinian rights and not just focussing on what is happening to Israel the occupier.
An interesting “footnote” to Buttu’s argument above is found in Robert Fisk’s new article, The True Gaza Back-story That The Israelis Aren’t Telling. An excerpt:
The Israelis of Sederot are coming under rocket fire from the Palestinians of Gaza and now the Palestinians are getting their comeuppance. Sure. But wait, how come all those Palestinians – all 1.5 million – are crammed into Gaza in the first place? Well, their families once lived, didn’t they, in what is now called Israel? And got chucked out – or fled for their lives – when the Israeli state was created.
And – a drawing in of breath is now perhaps required – the people who lived in Sederot in early 1948 were not Israelis, but Palestinian Arabs. Their village was called Huj. Nor were they enemies of Israel. Two years earlier, these same Arabs had actually hidden Jewish Haganah fighters from the British Army. But when the Israeli army turned up at Huj on 31 May 1948, they expelled all the Arab villagers – to the Gaza Strip! Refugees, they became. David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) called it an “unjust and unjustified action”. Too bad. The Palestinians of Huj were never allowed back.
And today, well over 6,000 descendants of the Palestinians from Huj – now Sederot – live in the squalor of Gaza, among the “terrorists” Israel is claiming to destroy and who are shooting at what was Huj. Interesting story.
And if you’re interested in questions about media presentation of this conflict you might like to read When Does the ‘Cycle of Violence’ Start? by on FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). Another excerpt:
But is it really that easy to pin down when these cycles of violence begin? You won’t see corporate media making serious attempts to answer this question very often. A notable exception occurred on MSNBC’s All In (7/8/14), where correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin brought up the recent deaths of Palestinian teenagers at the hands of Israeli security forces in May. . . .