Jewish Council for Public Affairs:
CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENTS SUPPORTS ISRAELI ACTION TO PROTECT ITS CITIZENSNew York, December 27, 2008. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations stands solidly with the government of Israel and its decision to defend its people against terrorism through the targeted airstrikes made on Gaza today.
“The government and people of Israel have shown unprecedented restraint in the face of unyielding attacks with hundred of missiles and mortars fired on civilian targets by Hamas and other terrorist organizations who have made clear that their goal is the destruction of the State of Israel. No country could or would put up with this,” said Harold Tanner, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents. “The first obligation of every government is to protect its citizens and there can be no more justified use of force than responding to such unending terrorism.”
“We support the United States administration’s position that places the blame for Israel’s attack on Hamas and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence,” they added.
Palestinian militants in Gaza have long been launching Kassam and other rockets at southern Israeli towns and have dramatically increased these attacks in the past six weeks. Hamas launched more than 250 rockets and mortars at Israeli towns and civilians in the past week, including 80 today, which killed one and injured seven others in their homes and in synagogue.
The goal of today’s attack was to strike at Hamas’ infrastructure in order to bring an end to the rocket firings on Israel and the terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip. Israel remains committed to maintaining a peaceful solution and had entered into the most recent ceasefire through Egypt to work toward establishing calm without the use of force. At the same time, however, the Hamas regime took advantage of the ceasefire by continuing to launch rockets into southern Israel, keep Gilad Shalit captive and build up its arsenal. The Hamas arsenal is now believed to have thousands of missiles, anti tank and anti-aircraft weapons, tons of munitions and an infrastructure of 50-kilometer underground tunnels. They improved the range of their rockets so that major population centers like Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva are at risk.
Israel specifically selected Hamas military targets and used pinpoint strikes in order to avoid civilian casualties. Israel targeted training camps, underground missile silos and command-and-control centers throughout the Gaza Strip. One of the buildings hit today included a Hamas headquarters that was used for stockpiling weapons and military equipment and was a launching point for terrorist operations into Israel.
“Hamas has been declared a terrorist organization by most democratic nations. We take their declarations of war and their intent to kill and maim Israeli civilians seriously and we believe the international community should do so as well. Tolerating terrorism anywhere means escalating it everywhere,” said Tanner and Hoenlein.
“The Conference of Presidents urges our government to assert Israel’s rights to defend its citizens and we call on the United Nations to focus on the Hamas terrorist regime, as well as those who aid and abet that regime, as the source of the constant attacks to which Israel and her citizens have been subjected, said Hoenlein. “The UN charter recognizes the right of countries to defend their borders and their citizens and must uphold that principle. UN condemnations of the Israeli airstrike will be counterproductive and further terror will be invited in the Middle East and around the world if they equate those engaged in terror with those defending against it and those who exercise restraint with those who exploit it.”
JCPA Executive Director Rabbi Steve Gutow issued the following statement about the unfolding operations in Gaza:Foreign Minister FM Tzipi Livni briefs diplomats in Sderot:
“It is unfortunate that Israel has had to resort to air strikes and is now grappling with a possible ground operation in the very area that it has tried hard to disengage from since 2005.
Israel has taken great lengths to avoid this sort of escalation, but was left with no other way to ensure that its civilians would not have to live in fear of rocket fire. Just a few days ago, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an appeal on the Arab television station Al-Arabiya asking Gaza residents to stop the firing of rockets and mortar shells so that a military response could be avoided.
Even while rockets rained down on the frequently targeted town of Sderot and in the town of Kiryat Gat—a first-time target—Israel continued to transfer food and medicine into Gaza despite no apparent end to the attacks.
As Israel moves towards elections and the possibility of turning a new page, it is our hope that the Palestinian people will take the opportunity that this transition presents to turn their own page on Hamas’ failed leadership.”
Israel left the Gaza Strip years ago. The idea was that Gaza would be the beginning of the Palestinian state. That didn't happen, because Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is a terrorist organization with a radical ideology and it's not willing to accept the demands of the international community. It is the enemy.Livni also addressed Knessett.
But Hamas is not our problem alone; it is also a problem for all the Palestinians in the region and for anyone who shares these values. The only way to achieve peace is by confronting terrorism and the opponents of the peace process. Hamas is the one placing obstacles in the path of peace, which should be everyone's goal. Hamas is illegitimate and its control of the Gaza Strip is illegitimate; it wants a zero sum game. The struggle is not between Israel and Hamas, but between moderates and extremists.
The role of the world leaders is to stand up and announce clearly: Hamas is responsible. Hamas is the ruler and Hamas put the population of Gaza in danger. Sometimes it's not easy. Hamas is manipulating the situation in order to spread more hatred.
Israel left the Gaza Strip, not in order to return, but because a state sometimes reaches a point where there is no other choice. Enough is enough. We demonstrated restraint. Six months of calm were violated on a daily basis - by them. Hamas thought that Israel wouldn't do anything and that the international community would put pressure only on Israel. I hope that they were wrong; someone has to show them that they were wrong. We have paid the price for our restraint in long-range missiles, and we have to answer to our citizens.
We proved that we want quiet. However, we need the support of the international community; that's the only way to change the reality on the ground. The equation has to be changed, and, in order to do that, we must use force.
Hamas uses its power to harm civilians. Our actions are designed to minimize the harm to civilians. Most of the people killed in the current IDF operation were wearing uniforms. We told the civilians to evacuate the places that were bombed. In order to make a change on the ground, the international community has to make the distinction between Hamas and Israel, and to put pressure on Hamas.
I don't accept the calls for a joint ceasefire. There is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization and Israel is a state defending itself. The only way to shorten this operation is to make clear that Israel has the right to defend itself and that the international community supports Israel in its confrontation with Hamas. This is not a case in which the neighborhood bully is in charge and extremism triumphs. This is the message that you must convey. It's like a reversal of the David and Goliath story in which the strong exercises restraint in facing the weak.
Israeli President Shimon Peres also made a statement while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert briefed the press on the IDF operation.
Honest Reporting has a special report on recent events.