The Foreign Ministry launched a public relations blitz Saturday to counter the pictures coming out of Gaza, stressing that the goal of the operation was to strike a major blow to Hamasâ€š terror infrastructure and protect Israeli citizens. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and spokespeople from the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister's Office and the IDF Spokesman's Office took to the airwaves - including the Arab satellite stations - with the message that Israel has been patient up until now, but could not tolerate the unending attacks, and that Hamas was the party responsible for the suffering that would incur. In the afternoon, Livni read a statement to foreign television outlets saying that Israel had been under daily attack from Gaza for years, and that this week, "hundreds of missiles and mortars shells were fired at Israeli civilian communities, including 80 missiles fired on a single day. "Until now, we have shown restraint," she said. "But today there is no other option than a military operation. "We need to protect our citizens from attack through a military response against the terror infrastructure in Gaza. This is the translation of our basic right to self-defense." Similar messages were delivered at a press conference she held in the early evening with the foreign press. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, supported by Iran, that does not represent the legitimate national interests of the Palestinian people, but a radical Islamist agenda that seeks to deny peace for the peoples of this region," Livni said. Diplomatic officials said the purpose of the public diplomacy campaign was to give Israel as much diplomatic legitimacy for the operation as possible. The Foreign Ministry has been preparing for the offensive for a number of days, sending to its representatives background material on Hamas, talking points, and instructions to its representatives to return from holiday vacations even though their counterparts in many of the world's capitals were away for Christmas and New Year's. On Sunday, the ministry will be setting up a media center in Sderot to deal with the crisis. Among the messages that Israel's representatives abroad have been armed with are the following:
"The reason for the operation is the ongoing and insufferable terrorist fire on a quarter of a million Israeli citizens. Those citizens have been under incessant terror attacks from the Gaza Strip with thousands of missiles fired over the past eight years. No country in the world would be willing to accept this kind of onslaught on its citizens."
"The goal of the operation is to strike a major blow to Hamas's terror infrastructure and the ability of Hamas and its allied organizations to launch missiles and mortar shells at Israeli citizens and execute terror attacks of various kinds, such as kidnapping Israeli civilians."
"Hamas is responsible for the situation, since it violated the calm, is firing against and attacking Israeli citizens, and is investing all its resources in arming itself and gathering power."
"The terrorist organizations work out of the Palestinian population centers and cynically exploit them, so the responsibility for Palestinian civilians getting hurt rests on their shoulders. Hamas brings women and children up to the roofs of buildings housing terrorist activity in an attempt to prevent air strikes; it sends civilians to the line of fire; it works out of schools and mosques; it fires rockets out of crowded population centers; and it sends Palestinian mothers to murder Israeli children in suicide attacks."
"The truce brokered by Egypt was exploited by Hamas not only to employ terror against Israel's citizens, but also to gain strength and massively arm itself with the intention of increasing their capacity for terror and expanding the range of the threat against Israeli citizens. Hamas men were being smuggled out and were being trained in Iran and Syria."
"Israel does not want a humanitarian crisis, and Hamas is the cause of the suffering and distress of the population there."
"Most of the countries in the world and the United Nations have pronounced Hamas to be a terrorist organization, and they are boycotting all contact with it. Israel expects the world's nations to support Israel's war against this terror organization and even join the campaign."
"At the same time Israel is fighting terror, the government is deliberately and openly maintaining a political process with the elected Palestinian government headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister [Salaam] Fayad. Hamas opposes these negotiations and any settlement with Israel, and constitutes an unstable element in the region."
"Israel is prepared and ready to respond harshly to any attack or provocation by any factor in the region. This is a fight between Israel and terrorist elements acting against Israel's citizens, so there is no cause for any outside party to intervene."