(photo credit: )
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Israel was representing the fight against terror and extremism in the Middle East by battling Hamas in Gaza.
Speaking at a press conference alongside European foreign ministers in Jerusalem, Livni vowed that Israel would "change the equation in the region," saying that the days of "Hamas firing rockets and Israel showing restraint" were over.
"When Israel is targeted it will retaliate," she said.
The foreign minister said the Middle East was being divided between moderates and extremists, and that "everyone in the region must choose a camp and choose where he belongs."
"What we are doing represents the battle in the region - the fight against extremism and terror," Livni declared, emphasizing that moderate leaders in the region understand Hamas's terrorist ties with Iran and Hizbullah.
Livni went on to say that she fully understood "the will of the international community to see a calm region," and that Israel, too, had the very same desire.
She said the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry were cooperating in order to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid to the Strip, and to ease the bureaucracy in dealing with all the international humanitarian organizations.
"We are not trying to punish the [Gazan] population," she stressed. "We are trying to take all the necessary steps to avoid civilian casualties, but unfortunately, they [the terrorists] hide among civilians."
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, however, said that "the EU insists on a cease-fire at the earliest possible moment."
Rocket attacks on Israel also must stop, Schwarzenberg told the joint news conference.
The EU brought no truce proposals of its own to the region because the cease-fire "must be concluded by the involved parties," he added.
Later, addressing Israeli reporters, Livni said she did not see how international observers could help at this stage, and that Israel needed more time to complete the Gaza operation.
She also said she didn't want the military action to end in such a way that would give legitimacy to Hamas.
"We don't do deals with terror, we fight terror" added the foreign minister. "The moment we do deals with terror is the moment we can no longer conduct a real peace process."