Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon joins The Takeaway from the BBC's offices in Washington D.C. to share his perspective. He's also the former Israeli Ambassador to the United States.
Here's a transcript of the interview:
Todd Zwillich (host): We heard the Secretary [Clinton] use the phrase ‘durable outcome.’ Can you explain what that means from Israel’s perspective beyond simply a stop in rocket fire coming from Gaza – what does ‘durable’ mean?
Danny Ayalon: Yes, and this is the crux of the matter and why this agreement was so elusive, since Hamas does not want to talk about a durable settlement. That means they would like to keep the option to fire at will and terrorize more than 4 million – half of our population. And this is something which is simply unacceptable; our people our children, they demand and deserve peace and quiet for the duration. And this is where we stand now. Unfortunately Hamas has intensified their attacks; also they use this bombing of civilians in buses in Tel Aviv. So we will have to bite our lips and tongues and continue to endure with the hope that Hamas will stop in time. Otherwise we will have to consider more operations all the way even to land maneuvers and ground operations, although we are here very reluctant warriors. We would not like to reach that point.
TZ: I’m sorry, you have confirmation that Hamas is responsible for the Bus bombing in Tel Aviv today?”
DA: Yes, the Qassam- the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam units of Hamas took responsibility. Also we see from the mode of operation, it all points to a Hamas terror group.
TZ: Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon of Israel, if ‘durable outcome’ means an end to smuggling, arming of Hamas, smuggling of rockets and other armaments into Gaza which I assume in part it does mean, can you help us understand what balance could be achieved in Israel’s estimation between having a stronger border, where weapons that can harm Israelis are not being smuggled in, and having a border porous enough that Palestinians living in Gaza can have a sense of normalcy: goods, services, movement that they are in many ways lacking now? Many have complained that the strength of the border and the near-sealing of the border, not just between Israel and Gaza, but also the Egypt Crossing, has made it hard for them to have normalcy, can that also part of the discussion?
DA: Absolutely, and it has never been our aim to really have any bad or adverse consequence for innocent civil populations. The responsibility of course is Hamas, which has been smuggling, which has been firing at us at will. So we had no choice but to monitor everything that goes into Gaza. But once we can achieve a robust and dependable monitoring mechanism I think it would be more than our desire to open Gaza. Although, I can tell that with all the closures we have made sure, and we went out of our way to make sure that there are no shortages of any medical supplies or food or any other necessary things in Gaza. Even today as we speak and as we receive these rockets and terror from Gaza we make sure that the crossings are open and supplies go into Gaza from Israel.
TZ: Danny Ayalon, as we take a little bit of a step back from the current crisis, a small step back, one can easily understand a response taking out rockets sites where rockets have been launched from. That makes sense to probably almost anyone who could be watching this conflict. In the end, if a truce, if a cease-fire, a durable outcome, whatever we want to call it, is reached in the next couple of hours or couple of days here, what will Israel have achieved in this operation beyond the destruction of actual rockets sites or the militants firing them. Strategically or conceptually what will Israel have gained after 8 or 9 days of this?
DA: Hopefully deterrence and Hamas will think twice and more than twice for the next time when they want to fire at Kindergartens or malls or places of parks, this will have been worth while. Although, it’s too late for the six Israelis killed and for the hundreds of thousands of children who have been traumatized but I think that this would be an achievement which is possible.
TZ: And For the hundreds of Palestinians killed as well. Not all of the people who have been killed by Israeli rockets have been militants.
DA: Absolutely, Todd and here I can tell you that we have been very, very careful and I think that although every innocent death is tragic, and it’s hard to make comparison, but I think we have been much more accurate than other operations. We are studying from past operations and mistakes, and if you compare the situation in Gaza with, say, the situation in Syria today, where the Assad Regime just mercilessly butchers people and children there is a big difference. And I would say that most of the people that were hit in Gaza deserved it, as they were just armed terrorists.
TZ: Danny Ayalon, one of the forces marginalized in this current conflict is the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, who you have been able to talk to in the past. Is there not an opportunity here, maybe in the next weeks or months, not today, to get back to the table with the Palestinian on a broader solution that has the side benefit of marginalizing Hamas, which it seems might be a common interest of both the Palestinian authority and Israel?
DA: Absolutely, and we are still waiting at the table. It was unfortunate that almost four years went by almost wasted because the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Abu Mazen refused direct negotiations; they put a lot of hurdles and pre-conditions where by had they been talking to us with mutual respect I think many of the problems could have been passed. But I think this stubbornness about pre-conditions on the one hand and on the other hand, not really recognizing our right to self-determination whether it’s a Jewish state or our needs for security arrangements all these things should be on the table and could be discussed. I hope that this will be an opportunity for Abu Mazen to rethink and not go for a unilateral move at the UN or anywhere else against all the understandings and past agreements with them and come to the table. This is high time to do that.
TZ: Before we let you go Danny Ayalon, can you give us any sense of a timeline or a ceasefire or a truce, a de-escalation within the next few hours or days here, what can we expect; is an announcement immanent?”
DA: I hope. The Secretary is still in Cairo and of course the activities and involvement of the Egyptian government is invaluable and I hope, I hope that in hours not days we will have good news.
TZ: Danny Ayalon is Israel’s deputy foreign minister, also former Israeli ambassador to the United States. Ambassador, thank you for joining us.
DA: Thank you.
During the interview, Ayalon said: "Most of the people that were hit in Gaza deserved it, as they were just armed terrorists." Here's a clip of that part.