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Israeli Ambassador Outlines Demands

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And now, Ambassador Sallai Meridor, who is Israel's ambassador to Washington. Welcome to the program once again.

Ambassador SALLAI MERIDOR (Israeli Ambassador to the United States): Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: We hear talk of a durable and sustainable ceasefire. Would Israel enter into a ceasefire if you had the assurance from Hamas that they would stop firing rockets?

Amb. MERIDOR: Well, we need to have a new situation on the ground where on the one hand, there is no more rockets and our civilians are not under tremendous barrage of rockets, and at the same time, that Iran is not allowed to continue to build a terror base on our border.

SIEGEL: When we've asked Israeli spokesmen, is the aim here to put Hamas out of power in Gaza, Israel has said that is not an articulated aim of this operation. But it all sounds like the result of this operation, a success by Israel's terms, will be ousting Hamas from power in Gaza.

Amb. MERIDOR: Our purpose is to bring about a different situation. If you ask me about our larger purpose is to live in peace, and we'd love to have peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Our problem is that Hamas is committed to destruction of Israel and refuses to recognize the very existence of the state of Israel. So, in absence of a partner in Gaza that is willing to live in peace with us, the most we can look for is a durable and sustainable calm. And we would take the necessary measures in order to reach such an outcome.

SIEGEL: Would you favor...

Amb. MERIDOR: What - so, our purpose, if I may be more direct to your question, which I'm sure is well-deserved, is our purpose is not to uproot Hamas, even though for the Palestinians, this would have been a very good future. Our purpose is to make sure the people are not every day under barrage of rockets.

SIEGEL: Would you welcome an international force in Gaza that would monitor security and the performance of the armed force there?

Amb. MERIDOR: Well, this is too early to tell. I think that what we've learned from different situations, international or any kind of goodwill ambassadors are basically efficient when they monitor a situation that is acceptable to the parties involved. So, the basic thing is here is not this layer of monitors or observers or whatever one want to call them; it is bringing about a situation that - where Hamas understands that they have to accept that they cannot anymore fire and they cannot anymore build a threat of fire. And this can be created only when they understand that the status quo ante that they were trying to impose on all of us, Israelis and Palestinians alike, is unacceptable.

SIEGEL: Would Israeli permit open passages in and out of Gaza, or at least into Gaza, in exchange for that?

Amb. MERIDOR: Well, I think this is not the issue right now. The issue right now, as I told you, is stopping the acts of terror and preventing the creation of such a terror base with extended ranges and extended threats.

SIEGEL: Is Israel today talking with President Abbas and with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank? Does Israel see them as interlocutors over what will be negotiated in Gaza ultimately?

Amb. MERIDOR: We have a very significant process with the Palestinian Authority, both in terms of changing the reality on the ground in the West Bank and at the same time having political negotiations for the future, with the hope to reach a situation with two states living in peace side by side, a Palestinian state living in security and peace and dignity alongside the state of Israel. And this is our strategic goal, but part of this effort is to make sure the enemies of this outcome of peace cannot prevail.

SIEGEL: Israeli ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor. Ambassador Meridor, thank you.

Amb. MERIDOR: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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