Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Jacques Marcel Verhagen has pledged to lobby the EU member states to admit Israel to its ranks. Verhagen, who met on Tuesday with President Shimon Peres, said that it was very important to him that Israel become a member of the EU because Israel succeeds in maintaining democracy, stability and freedom under extremely difficult conditions. Verhagen, who also visited Sderot on Tuesday, condemned the ongoing attacks from Gaza and said that no government in the world could accept a situation in which its citizens were being fired at all the time. The Hamas leadership, he said, would be persona non grata in the international community for as long as it persisted with its policy of assault. If Hamas wanted Israel to stop the reprisals against its attacks, said Peres, it must immediately cease firing rockets at Israel. It surely did not expect Israel to retaliate with flowers, he added. Gazans would enjoy a more peaceful existence if Hamas put down its weapons and stopped taking orders from a leader in Syria whose main focus was to sabotage the peace process and thereby cause needless bloodshed, Peres said, referring to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. With regard to the storming by Gazans of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday, Peres said Hamas was putting women and children on the front line to defend its policies with their bodies, and sometimes they paid with their lives for the Islamist organization's brutal and criminal actions. This could have happened in Rafah, Peres said, but fortunately no one was killed. If such provocations continued, Hamas would become even more isolated, because the Egyptians were interested in maintaining regional stability and advancing the peace process, the president said. Peres left for Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon, to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos.