As Sallai Meridor repeatedly stressed how Israelis desire peace, word reached him that Hamas rockets had struck deep inside the Jewish state — perhaps deeper than ever before.
During the middle of an international press conference via phone Tuesday, Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, got word that rockets attacked Beersheba, the seventh largest city in Israel with a population of 186,000 people.
“This is just an example of what we are going through and why we must protect our people,” he said.
Otherwise, throughout much of the press conference, the topic Meridor constantly returned to was peace.
“There is nothing we Israeli’s want more than is peace,” he said. “The last thing we want is war.”
With journalists listening around the world, as well as being broadcasted on television in several countries, Meridor took questions about Israel’s current air strikes on Gaza.
Israel has come under intense global criticism for its air strikes on the region, but Meridor asked people to put themselves in the shoes of Israelis.
“What would you do if it were in your own town, in your own community?” he said. “If your school or home were bombarded every day, would you take action? This is why Israel has no other choice, than to protect the lives of its citizens.”
Despite all of the attacks back and forth between the two regions, Meridor said Israel is still committed to making peace.
“There is nothing we hope more than for our children and grandchildren and the Palestinian children and grandchildren, and that is peace,” he said. “We have not given up on hope and we are trying and going to continue to try to obtain peace.”
However, he said that there is only so much a country can take, before they must protect themselves and launch an attack of their own.
“Israeli citizens who were asking for peace, got in return rockets on their heads,” Meridor said. “We have to protect our heads.”
Both regions had a truce for roughly a year and a half before Hamas broke that calm Dec. 19. At that point Hamas fired more than 400 rockets over a one-week period into the Jewish state.
“Even at that point we were calling on them to stop,” Meridor said, “and only when this did not help did we have no other choice.”
Targets in Gaza have been picked out carefully according to the ambassador. The focus is on the terrorists.
“What we have been doing is targeting only targets that are related to terror, very carefully doing so,” he said. “We are sad for every loss of life, people who are innocent, no matter Palestinian or Israeli.”
Meridor pointed the finger squarely at Iran during his press conference, claiming they are the ones supporting Hamas.
“Hamas is an arm of the octopus centered in Iran,” he said. “What you are seeing in Gaza is Iranian made. It’s trained by Iran, funded by Iran, started by Iran.”
Meridor warned the international community that a nuclear Iran could pose a very serious risk.
“The largest exporter of terror in the region and beyond the region is Iran,” he said. “They are continuing their nuclear program. If there is a nightmare, it will be a marriage between nuclear and terror.”
While several major news networks have reported that Israel is not allowing humanitarian aide into Gaza, Meridor refuted those reports, saying Israel is doing exactly the opposite.
“We are making every effort to get aide into the region,” he said. “Yesterday we sent 63 trucks into the region. Today it will be nearly 90 trucks.”
Aid has come from all around the world, and Meridor said that it was important to also have assistance from the United States. He wouldn’t say what he thought President-Elect Obama should do, however.
“I’m not here to give advice to the president of the U.S.,” he said.
(Mike Zoller can be reached at email@example.com.)