From Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcast: 30/07/2014
Reporter: Emma Alberici
[I'm posting this in full, because the ABC will probably take it down as soon, having failed in this program, despite Alberici's naive best efforts, to make Israel look like the "bad guy".... Until it does, follow the link to see a video of the program.]
Dore Gold, Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, discusses the hostilities in Gaza.
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: Our top story is the hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. And joining us from Jerusalem is Dore Gold, senior foreign policy advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs. He's also a former ambassador to the UN.
Dore Gold, welcome to Lateline.
DORE GOLD, SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR TO ISRAELI PM: It's a pleasure to be with you.
EMMA ALBERICI: Please explain for us why Israel has fired missiles at a United Nations school in Gaza knowing that hundreds of innocent families were sheltering there.
DORE GOLD: Well, you have to take that question apart into two - two elements. Number one, Israel does not knowingly fire into civilian groups of people, into civilian buildings. What has happened is schools, clinics and a variety of civilian residences have now moved from the category of being purely a non-military entity to becoming actual military targets. Israel, however, uses a system of warnings when that happens. The reason why suddenly we find civilians in a school or in other places is because Hamas has a deliberate policy of using these people as human shields. Now, I just want to add one last point on this. The United Nations has already complained that it has found three schools of UNRRA that have been used by Hamas for storing weapons and those weapons in fact have been discovered by the UN. So we have a very serious problem. In many cases, a UN school will be used by Hamas to fire at our troops. In other cases, they're used to store weaponry.
EMMA ALBERICI: Sorry, I was going to say we should go through some of the issues you raise in some detail. First of all, the UN's Chris Gunness has told the BBC just in the last few hours that Israel had been warned 17 times that the school in the Jabaliya refugee camp was housing people who'd been forced to flee from their homes.
DORE GOLD: Well if you're speaking about a specific case that occurred today, I know some event has occurred which is under investigation and Israel always thoroughly investigates these cases. In the past, we have found that when allegations were made about Israeli military activity in a civilian area, we demonstrated very clearly, and the international community accepted our arguments, that these types of events have occurred because Hamas was operating there. That, for example, the other day in a hospital courtyard, a blast went off, injuring - in fact killing some children. And why did that blast go off? Israel wasn't even operating in the area. It was Hamas launching a Fajr-5 rocket procured from Iran at Israel and they mishandled the rocket. So as these kinds of things occur, these events have to be investigated.
EMMA ALBERICI: Excuse me for interrupting. Excuse me for interrupting you there, but I do want to take you back to the UN's claims today that were very simply that you were warned 17 times and the most recent time was just an hour before the fatal attack - warned that there were innocent civilians who were in the school taking shelter after being forced to leave their homes.
DORE GOLD: Well let me just tell you, I understand how the IDF operates, and I can tell you this: if the IDF, the Israel Defence Forces, knows there are civilians in an area, it will not open fire. If this occurred, it's probably because of Hamas fire or because of a misunderstanding, but I don't want to relate to any specific incident today. Those incidents need to be investigated. But what you're doing is you're micromanaging your questions in very specific areas, which are extremely important, but there's no way that on an investigative television show, several hours afterwards, you're going to figure this out. If you want the bigger picture of what is happening in the Gaza Strip, that can be discussed. But obviously, these kinds of issues have to be investigated, they're sensitive and they require the thorough co-operation between the United Nations and Israel. That co-operation is there.
EMMA ALBERICI: But you are calling into question claims being raised by the UN.
DORE GOLD: There have been other cases. This is a very tragic war, a tragic war that has broken out because Hamas decided first and foremost to launch rockets at Israeli cities, at our population centres in the heart of Israel. And number two, they also decided to launch these rockets, to place their military equipment in civilian areas. Now, Israel has basically three responses it could make with this kind of a war imposed on it. It could respond like the Allies in the Second World War and carpet bomb the enemy. We don't do that. We don't napalm whole neighbourhoods. That is not how Israel operates. We could have also said, "You know what? There's nothing we can do. There are civilians in the area from where they're shooting, it's better we just raise our hands and let our people be pelted with rockets." That is something Israel isn't going to do. We have to defend our people, as any country, including Australia, would. The only logical way of handling a situation like this is what Israel has proposed and what it is implementing. And that is giving sequential warnings to the population, leaflets, breaking into radio transmissions, getting Arabic-speaking officers to call people on their cell phones and send them text messages to move out of an area where military operations are going to occur.
EMMA ALBERICI: Let me test some of the ...
DORE GOLD: Does the Israeli system work perfectly? No.
EMMA ALBERICI: OK, let me test some of your claims.
DORE GOLD: But does it represent a moral country pursuing a moral war of self-defence? Absolutely and that is exactly what you would do, unless you wanted to do the other two options.
EMMA ALBERICI: OK, there's quite a bit to get through on the issues you've raised there. First of all, the Israeli Defence Force, as you've just claimed, has given civilians ample warnings that they're coming to throw rockets into particular areas, but once made aware that a missile is about to strike, where are those people supposed to go when even the UN shelters are being targeted?
DORE GOLD: Well, first of all, Israel doesn't target UN shelters. What it will do is that if Hamas is firing out of an area, putting our troops at risk, and Israel has ascertained that citizens, civilians are not there, then it will fire to defend its troops. Now where are they to go? That's an excellent question. In fact, if you look at the Arabic leaflets that Israel drops in places like Sudjaia (phonetic spelling), the neighbourhood right across from Nuchelose (phonetic spelling) in Israel, those leaflets have maps on them with red arrows saying where people should go to get out of harm's way. We don't just tell people, "Oh, there's going to be a battle in this area. You better find a place to go." You actually have to suggest to people where they should find refuge and that's exactly what Israel does.
EMMA ALBERICI: I'm challenging you not because of the word of the Palestinian people or even Hamas; it's the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights saying, "The number of incidents, along with the high number of civilian deaths, belies the claim that all necessary precautions are being taken to prevent civilian - protect civilian lives."
DORE GOLD: Well, we have very strong differences with her and her sort of authoritative comments. In the past Israel was charged - there was a military operation in 2008 and 2009, Operation Cast Lead, and many people said that mostly civilians were killed. Well - when actually the war was over. And we looked at the names of the individuals involved and we actually counted what happened in that war. What you found is that the number of civilians hurt or killed in that war was far less than occurs in other wars, in Afghanistan and the history of warfare in general. Israel does the maximum it can do. But unless you've actually gone on a name-by-name basis and looked at who was affected by a battle, you can't just give a speech at the United Nations and say, "70 per cent of the people were non-combatants." I simply can't accept that kind of presentation by a senior UN official.
EMMA ALBERICI: One in eight Gazans have been made homeless and 1,200 - what we're being told is mostly innocent Palestinians - have died, versus 56 Israelis. Do you honestly expect the international community to believe that your response to the threat from Hamas is proportionate?
DORE GOLD: Well, you're using proportionality at war by looking at the number of deaths on either side. Now remember, there wouldn't be a single death had Hamas not fired at us and started this war to begin with. But if you look at the history of warfare, who lost more people? Nazi Germany or Britain? If you use your basis of evaluating things, you'd say, "Well, Britain was in the wrong and Nazi Germany was in the right." You can't use the relative number of losses.
Now in the case of the Hamas, how did the Hamas spend its money over the last five years? While Israel put money into civilian defence shelters, air raid shelters and invested in a unique rocket missile defence system to protect its people, Hamas didn't provide shelters for its people, it created, first of all, attack tunnels, which allowed its operatives to go under the earth into Israeli territory where they planned to kidnap and kill villagers living near the Gaza Strip within Israel. Moreover, they spent money on rockets, offensive rockets, not rockets to knock other rockets out of the sky. So, if there are losses that have occurred that seem to show that the Israelis haven't had as many dead people as the Palestinians, the basis for that is Hamas policy and Israel should not feel guilty for the fact that it's protecting its own civilians, as you would or any responsible democratic country would.
EMMA ALBERICI: So, even if what you say about the other side in this conflict is true, are you suggesting then that the Israeli military, as sophisticated as it is, the best it can do will always involve the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians?
DORE GOLD: I'm suggesting that modern war, if you study it seriously as you study any other subject, you will find that civilians are affected. Now, they are affected in particular if one side of the conflict, namely Hamas, has a belief in martyrdom, has a belief in putting civilians in harm's way intentionally. We have statements that have been made by Hamas leaders extolling the idea of human shields. And if I may remind you, it was Hamas that perfected the idea of suicide bombing attacks. They were Hamas young men coming into the heart of Israeli cities, going into a pizzeria, into a discotheque or into just a mall, blowing themselves up to kill a dozen Israelis and maim another 30. Now that is what Hamas is all about. In fact, this year, a Tunisian poet wrote in Asharq Al-Awsat, the Saudi newspaper, about the whole Hamas infatuation with the cult of death. This is horrible. It is horrible that these people are given weapons, have money and power. I blame Qatar, that very rich Emirate that's been pouring money into the hands of Hamas, and I blame Iran, which has been supplying weapons so that it can have a Mediterranean base for the extension of its influence. The Palestinian people are paying a price, the people of Israel are paying a price. We want to defeat the Hamas option of hurting Israel and sacrificing Palestinians and we're doing it the best way we can.
EMMA ALBERICI: Just in the last few hours, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has warned that Western opinion is rapidly turning against Israel because of the scale of the action in Gaza. Does that bother you?
DORE GOLD: Obviously this bothers us, but what is your ultimate responsibility as a government? Is it to always first and foremost consider how you're doing in a public opinion poll, or is it to protect the lives of your civilians? We have to protect the lives of our civilians and we have to defeat - I have no other word to call it - an evil regime that wants to hurt Israelis and hurt Palestinians. And these are the results we're seeing.
Now there's another factor here, I have to say, and frankly it's unpleasant. I think Australia's a country of people who are fair. When they look at a situation that's complex, they don't just get taken in by a TV picture, a snapshot of a small scene of a much larger situation. But much of the international media is having a fest with the damages that are going on in Gaza that have been created largely by the Palestinian Hamas' own policy and this has helped create a very foul anti-Israeli mood.
EMMA ALBERICI: I'm sorry to come in there, we are going to run out of time and I think - I'm sorry to interrupt you, but we have gone over - you've gone over that point a couple of times and I don't want us to run out of time. And I want to ask you: is your government actively considering a reoccupation of Gaza?
DORE GOLD: You know, what Israel has said in terms of its military goals are very simple. Number one, bring the rocket fire to an end. It is untenable for any normal country to have to accept that its people are going to be hit by rockets any time the other side wants to do it. The second element that is in our list of demands of military purposes of our operation is to destroy the tunnels. The tunnels are there not for going from one place to another; the tunnels are being used to go into Israel, to come up next to Israeli towns and villages where operatives of Hamas carrying heavy machines guns will go in and kill our people. We will not allow that to happen. The rest is our military campaign.
EMMA ALBERICI: I want to draw you back to my original question because - I'm sorry, I want to draw you back to the question because certainly early in this military campaign, a reoccupation of Gaza was something being advocated by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
DORE GOLD: Well, you know, I think the Foreign Minister has his views. He brings them to the cabinet and they're discussed and the cabinet makes a decision and the cabinet has not suggested that we're going to reoccupy the Gaza Strip. That is not a position that's been approved by the cabinet. It is a position which the Foreign Minister can fairly bring. It's a small area. Maybe he thinks that's what has to be done. But at the end of the day, those positions are debated and a decision is taken and the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the chief-of-staff who have considered this suggestion have decided they have two goals: stop the rockets into Israel and destroy the infiltration terror tunnels that are going to be used to kill our people unless we do it.
EMMA ALBERICI: If your objective is not to reoccupy Gaza, then isn't it about time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to sit down with Hamas to find common ground and negotiate some kind of lasting peace?
DORE GOLD: Excuse me, do you know what you're saying? Hamas is regarded as an international terrorist organisation. Now it's not just that it is a certain category or certain designation by the United States, by the European Union, by half a dozen countries - I believe by Australia as well. It is an organisation, if you read their charter, that calls for the destruction of Israel.
EMMA ALBERICI: Even the British - if I can just interrupt you for a minute on that particular point - if I can just interrupt you on that particular point, even the British Foreign Secretary has just in the last few hours admitted that Hamas needs to be part of a process that arrives at a lasting ceasefire.
DORE GOLD: You know, if you have Hamas as an organisation and you read what its charter calls for: the destruction of the state of Israel, the murder of its population, in fact the murder of all Jewish people. Now, you know, if they didn't come from the Middle East and they came from Europe, an organisation with those purposes, with those goals, would be called Nazis. Do you want us to sit and negotiate peace with that organisation? Wouldn't you want to say the organisation should fundamentally change first? In fact, the quartet, the combination of the EU, the United States, Russia and the UN Secretariat, have said before Hamas can be part of a peace process, it has to recognise Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept all past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. That was a smart idea. But to say that suddenly we're going to embrace Hamas with its hateful ideology, which isn't just in a museum, it's something they teach their children, it's something they teach their top people. They have in fact a religious leader named Yunis Al-Astal - I guarantee most people haven't heard of him. He's the most important Islamic legal authority of Hamas. Yunis Al-Astal in 2008 he called for (speaks Arabic) - in Arabic means a holocaust. He called for a renewed holocaust. He is their leader. He is in the Hamas parliament.
So, unless those voices change, unless someone comes up with a progressive message from Hamas of mutual understanding, of living together, to just say that Israel should sit with Hamas and work out a deal simply isn't looking at what's there. First we have to disarm Hamas. We have to make sure that the Gaza Strip will not have rockets and tunnels in the future. And then we have to work out a way of making sure the Gaza population is rehabilitated, is taken care of without strengthening the military capabilities Hamas to attack Israel or to attack anybody else in the Middle Eastern region.
EMMA ALBERICI: We're out of time, so we have to leave it there. I thank you very much for being with us.