“Bewildered Peres: ‘I don’t understand’” by Stan Goodenough

I’m sorry this is so long, but I would like all of you to read this excellent commentary from Stan Goodenough.

More than any other Israeli, State President Shimon Peres has promoted – and cajoled and bullied his countrymen into following – what he insists is the route to peace: a “peace process” that has served only to dangerously weaken his country territorially and divide it internally in the face of its ever-stronger and more determined Muslim foe.

Joint Nobel Peace Prize winner with the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the thankfully-now-dead PLO terror chieftain Yasser Arafat, Peres has doggedly refused ever to countenance the possibility that his pathway to peace is delusional. He has furiously, almost violently, brushed aside arguments and the reasoning of those of his countrymen who cannot support his approach to the conflict with the Arabs.

Ever since “Oslo” in 1993 – the agreement spawned by illegal meetings held under Peres’ direction – the evidence of its weakness and failure has been glaringly and painfully evident: Israel has no partner for peace. Surrendering territory to the Arabs only leads to more terrorism and more violence. Islam is at the heart of the problem. Its adherents believe they are destined to eradicate the Jewish state and wipe out its people – once and for all.

Dismissing all these concerns with a wave of his hand, Peres has plowed ahead and continues to pour his influence and his resources into trying to secure a lasting peace, against all the glaring evidence and proof.

Over the years I have grown accustomed to seeing and hearing the arrogant self-assurance with which he routinely disparages his critics. He even told a Jewish woman who demonstrated against Oslo that she should leave Israel and “go back to where [she] came from.”

But the Peres I watched give 17 minutes of his time for an interview on Sky News in the middle of last week was, by contrast, anything but his normally cocky self. Though he made some really strong and good points.

Repeatedly wringing his hands as he discussed the ongoing Gaza operation and the toll it was exacting on human life, the president stressed that this was “the first time in history that a war of this nature is taking place.

“A nation under siege” is standing “against a group of terrorists that don’t respect any norms, any laws.”

What Israel has had to experience during these past years, Peres said, was “very hard” to show on television.

“I can tell you, for example, that we have to keep almost a million people in shelters. You don’t see it on television that we have had to stop our schools; children are not going to study; that during this morning, already, we have close to eight or ten missiles over our heads.”

Sounding incredulous, almost bewildered, Peres said that Israel “can hardly understand what are those people fighting [for]; why are they shooting.”

From Israel’s standpoint “we left Gaza completely. Not only that; we made a supreme effort to withdraw our settlements by force, and handed over an independent Gaza with all the passages open, with all the commerce…”

So, “what do they want? Why are they shooting? Why are they firing?”

It’s not clear where Peres was when right-thinking Israelis were warning, before the “disengagement,” that the Arabs would only use the abandoned territory to attack Israel.

Sounding helpless, the eloquent elder-statesman said “there are many things I would like to see differently: But simply, I never heard from anybody any suggestion how to stop it. It’s very easy to criticize; but what can a nation do to stop when you find yourself under such an unusual, terrifying attack?”

“You know about the children. It’s unheard of to use children as a shelter for arms; to use mosques as an arsenal for missiles; to disguise terrorists as sick people in the hospital. And we have concrete information from this particular school – they shot mortars against us. I mean, we have to stop them; and we warned them; We say: “Don’t do it.” Before we bomb any place that there may be civilians, we phone them personally, and we say “leave the home.”

“Now what is our choice? To surrender?”

Peres bemoaned the way Israel is accused of being “disproportionate” in its response to eight years of missile fire.

“[T]o Israel you cannot talk about proportions. They don’t have any proportions; they don’t have any measurements, and nobody can explain what are their aims; what is their outlook. So I mean, no nation has ever had such a confrontation; you can’t compare it with anyone else.”

Asked whether a ceasefire was one of Israel’s aims, Peres said, “It’s not a ceasefire, but shall I say a cease of terror” that we need.

“It’s not that we started to fire against the Palestinians and they fired against us. The problem is to end the terror. We never started it; we shall never start to shoot. We don’t need any urge.”

“I want to tell you sincerely,” the veteran peacenik stressed, again clasping his hands. “We don’t want to extend the war. We don’t want to prolong the war. We don’t have any territorial ambitions. We’re interested to bring an end to it. But to bring an end not only to the present situation but to bring an end to terror. … They force us to reply. It’s not our choice. It’s the lack of choice that guides our lives.”

Interviewer Eamonn Holmes tried to squeeze an apology out of Peres for the deaths of Arab non-combatants in the IDF operation: “People want you to say sorry for the deaths of those innocent civilians and children yesterday.”

“I am sorry for all innocent death. There are innocent deaths all over the place. It’s also an innocent impossible situation. A country cannot live like this. Let me say, really: If it would happen in London, you wouldn’t wait a minute. … We are the same human beings. But from far away you can serve as judges, I don’t complain. We are not judges. We are victims. And we have to stop it and nobody [has] suggested [another solution].”

Peres made some more strong points:

Asked why Israel did not use diplomacy to deal with the Gaza issue, he explained that it takes two to tango – or to talk.

“For diplomacy you need that the other side will accept diplomacy. They don’t accept diplomacy. … But just by diplomacy – unfortunately – it cannot be solved.”

Hitting at the bizarre and telling global viewpoint that charges Israel – a nation that has made unprecedented overtures and gestures for peace with its enemies – with warmongering and expansionist ambitions, Peres said cuttingly:

“We are not so trigger-happy. We are not so enthusiastic to see our soldiers, in the winter days and nights, in Gaza. They don’t have any purpose which is of a territorial or political need [to be in there]. No.”

He also made it perfectly clear that his country understood that it needs to use force, and that force works:

“You know there was another gentleman in the north by the name of Nasrallah [Hizb’allah’s leader]. He also started by firing bombs and missiles against us and a war broke out [in 2006], at the cost of the lives of a thousand people. And then he stood up and said: If I had known that Israel would react so seriously I would not have started this.

“We want the Hamas people to understand that there is a cost to what they are doing. And they can save each of their children, all of their women, by not shooting.

“We don’t ask for any submission. We don’t ask for any surrender. [We ask] simply [that they will] stop shooting. And we cannot accept that they will shoot and then that we won’t shoot. We are entitled to have security like anybody else.”

The interviewer then came close to the very heart of the matter.

“But, Mr President, surely it is not as simple as that. Hamas is not just an army of force. Hamas is an ideology. How do you bomb …?”

Peres drove in hard and fast: “What is their ideology? What is their ideology? Would you know?”

Holmes squirmed to avoid the question: “But it is harder for you to tackle….”

Peres pressed him: “No, no. What is their ideology? They cannot say that we occupy Gaza because we stopped the occupation. We left it completely. So what is their ideology?”

SKY: “Well…”

PERES: “I am not arguing with you…”

SKY: “Yes.”

PERES: “I am trying to understand.”

Bang! Bang! There it was. The journalist could not answer. And Peres himself could not, or would not, say it.

For Hamas’ ideology is pure antisemitism and the total eradication of Israel and of all Jews.

And this is not some deeply hidden secret whispered behind closed Arab doors. Hamas and all Muslims who agree with their Koran-centered worldview, shout it from the rooftops. Literally. As do their supporters – including those Floridians who chanted “Nuke, nuke Israel” at a rally last week.

But neither the leftist Israeli president nor the leftist British interviewer could bring themselves to spit it out.

Tacking for a more comfortable issue, Holmes aired the widely-punted notion that Israel is afraid of the incoming Obama administration:

“What is your time scale in this? You’ve got Barack Obama waiting to become the president of America. People say … you only listen to America; you only listen to the Bush administration. Is it important for you to finish whatever you are going to do before President Obama is inaugurated?”

But the Israeli ducked the question, choosing to rather spell out how his nation has approached the conflict with the Arabs.

“The ideology of Israel is peace with the Palestinians, and ready to pay the price for it, as we paid the Jordanians and the Egyptians. That is our ideology.”

For Peres, this price has included great chunks of his tiny historic homeland and promises of a whole lot more, including parts of its ancient capital and its holiest site – the Temple Mount. Israel has also paid in the blood of so many of its people who have been killed as a direct result of what can be called the Peres Process. And Israel has paid by weakening itself geographically and by driving deep piles into its national unity.

As far as the Arab side was concerned, he continued, “they can stop endangering their children and women. It doesn’t make sense. To put rockets in the kindergarten. To put shells in the rooms of the children. It never happened [that others would use human shields in this way]!

Sky scurrilously accused Israel of doing the same, then tried to rapidly move on:

“But Mr President you’re doing the same. People are seeing it the same way. Do you see an end to…?”

Peres struck: “Just a minute. No! What are we doing in the same way? Sorry. We never do it. We never did it!”

Holmes tried again. “In the UN…”

But Peres wouldn’t let him. “No, no, please. Be careful. We never put children as shields. Did we ever put arms in kindergartens? NEVER!”

Homes fell into his own trap, coming to the defense of the heinous Arab practice and accusing Israel of deliberately targeting civilians. Others wouldn’t – he strongly implied: “But the fact that they are using children as a shelter … maybe there are other people who wouldn’t attack because the children are there.”

Then he added, lamely, “I am just portraying to you the image that is going around the world.”

Peres didn’t flinch. “Our problem is how to put an end to the firing against civilian life in Israel for no reason, day in, day out. If you have a good answer to it, it’s okay.

While Israel has “due respect for public opinion … we have to give an answer to the security of our people, and we don’t want to hurt anybody in Gaza. We don’t have any ambitions there, you must understand this. Our ambitions are not in Gaza.”

And then this man who refuses to recognize and acknowledge the reality facing his nation waxed poetic.

“Our ambitions are in Israel. To see a blue sky; a safe day; without rockets and without missiles.

“To this simple answer one must give either an alternative or suggest something else.”

Well, that’s the same thing.

For years, Peres and Israel’s other leftist leaders have refused to hear another alternative – to consider something else: That Israel’s enemies hate her because she exists. That the enemies of the Jews hate them because they exist. That their hatred cannot be negotiated away or talked away or bartered away. It can only be blown away.

This is the brutal reality. And it is dictated by the Arab side. Is this finally breaking through, for Peres?

SKY: “Mr President … Can you offer us any hope, any lifeline, that things will get better?”

His answer:

“If the terrorists will win, none of you and none of us will know a peaceful day. If they will learn the lesson, all of us and all of them will be … victorious.

“I suggest to every free person to give a hand to bring an end to the most brutal, unbelievable, bloody craziness. I think it would be a victory for you and for me and for the Arabs and for everybody.”

It would be a victory for reality, and for truth, is for sure.

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