While the Foreign Ministry is working with numerous institutions, organizations and individuals in a desperate attempt to salvage Israel's image in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, President Shimon Peres believes that saving lives is more important.
He said as much on Monday in reply to a question from the parents of Sec.-Lt. Aharon Karov, who was seriously wounded in Gaza only two weeks after getting married.
Rabbi Ze'ev Karov and his wife Chaya, referring to the lightning visit on Sunday by several heads of European nations, asked Peres, who was visiting wounded soldiers at Petah Tikva's Beilinson Hospital, why a group of world leaders had chosen to come to Israel now instead of during the past eight years, when Kassam rockets were landing in Israel.
Peres did not answer the question per se but said that if all those now demonstrating against Israel had demonstrated against Hamas during the past eight years, there would have been no need for Israel to launch Operation Cast Lead.
"Our image is important, but not as important as defending our lives," he said.
In various meetings over the past week, Peres has reiterated several times that in its media campaign, Israel could not compete with the gruesome images coming out of Gaza. While Israel strongly regretted civilian casualties, he said, it was very difficult to convince people that women and children had been killed because Hamas used them as human shields.
On Monday he again made the point that there was more to world opinion than CNN or the BBC, and that countries hit by terrorism completely understood Israel's policy.
"We have support from the United States, India and various European countries," he said. "The Americans were always with us, as were many European leaders. There are some strange people like Chavez against us, but I wouldn't pay too much attention to him."
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