The rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip are “idiotic,” and Israel must respond swiftly and strongly to them, President Shimon Peres told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“It’s the most idiotic shooting in the world, because if you shoot and you don’t know what you want to achieve, what’s the point? Do they want to destroy Israel? Do they want to make our lives miserable?” Peres asked. “If they shoot, we have to respond fully and immediately. There is no room for any consideration.”
The president made the comments in an interview in his office in the capital for The Jerusalem Post’s 80th anniversary supplement, which will be published on December 7.
Israel is trying to avoid any large-scale retaliation or another war against Hamas in Gaza that would inevitably harm civilians, Peres intimated, but may have no choice if the current situation in which a million mothers and children in the South cannot have a full night’s sleep continues.
Yet, he continued, it is important to look at the wider picture.
“You can’t fight terror just by shooting,” he said, noting that the confrontation is not just military, but also has its political side. “While you defend yourself, you also have to try to achieve peace,” he said.
Peres urged the government to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority immediately. “I think there are two things in life you cannot choose: your parents and your neighbors,” Peres said.
To those who reject a two-state solution, he said: “There is no one-state solution. There is a one-state problem. A binational state is a binational war forever.”
Peres said he still believes that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace, and he cannot understand why others do not think likewise.
“He had the courage to publicly say that he is in favor of peace and against terror,” Peres said.
The PA leader also stated clearly that he did not want to return to his birthplace of Safed, and that the Palestinian refugee issue should be resolved in “a just and agreed-upon way,” Peres emphasized.
“He said something serious and profound,” Peres said.
“Who else in the Arab world spoke so openly and so loudly? Does it matter what language he speaks? And he was attacked, and there are still threats against him.”
Citing the volatile situations in Syria, Libya and Yemen, Peres said the general turmoil in the region had nothing to do with Israel.
“What’s happening in the Middle East is basically disconnected with Israel,” he said.
“The fanatics try to get Israel involved because of our incomplete business with the Palestinians. We have to complete it and let the Arab peoples decide their own destiny without reference to the situation between us and the Palestinians.”
Peres also touched on Iran, and said that sanctions are having an effect, and not just economically.
Citing one aspect, Peres said that he had read that there are 6,000,000 Iranians suffering from cancer who are unable to get treatment due to sanctions.
“If they want to return to a normal life, let them become normal,” Peres said. “But they are irrational... As long as they’re the center of the terror, despite their denials, and as long as they call for a new Shoah, what choice does the world have?”
He added that he believes that reelected US President Barack Obama has adopted the right attitude toward Iran.
“I have the highest respect for him,” Peres said. “I trust what he says about Iran. I don’t have any reason to doubt it,” he said, adding that he understands Obama’s caution in holding back on a military strike against Iran.
“It is an American tradition to try to achieve goals without military means, but never to put the military means out of the picture,” Peres said.