When it comes to horrific events like the shocking attack of 7th October, there can be no room for anything other than a very clear moral stance. There can be no grey areas, rather only black and white. Anyone in the UN and in the international community that tries to place any of the blame on Israel is simply collaborating with Hamas and will find themselves on the very wrong moral side of history ~ Yahel Vilan
Israel has set out to fight, in an effort to ensure that there will never again be a repeat of the kinds of atrocities committed against its citizens on 7th October, when more than 1,300 Israelis were brutally murdered and 240 were kidnapped, says Ambassador Yahel Vilan speaking in this interview for CorD Magazine. He adds that Israel’s position is clear in that there can be no peace negotiations with a terrorist organisation like Hamas, which has violated international law. Nor can the Israeli side negotiate with “any other Palestinian leadership that has failed to condemn or at least openly oppose this monstruous massacre of Israeli citizens”.
Your Excellency, clashes in your lands have to date claimed the lives of thousands of people on both sides, including a large number of civilians and children. Do you see any possibility for a ceasefire that would bring an end to any further suffering?
― I think that the very presentation of the question creates bias and may mislead the readers from getting the correct picture of the reality on the ground since the October 7th massacre. On the one hand, there is a murderous terrorist organisation called Hamas, which for about 17 years, since taking over the Gaza Strip, has been operating terrorism with the sole purpose of murdering as many Israeli citizens as possible, and is also happy to “sacrifice” Palestinian citizens from time to time, both in order to use them as human shields against Israeli attacks and in order to increase the international pressure on Israel to stop its just and legal response to the terrorist attacks by Hamas. Indeed, unfortunately, there are innocent casualties on both sides, but this is where the comparison between the two sides begins and ends.
The horrifying October 7th massacre, both in its scope – in which over 1,300 Israelis were brutally murdered – and in its cruelty and systematicity – in which the murderers went from house to house, exterminating entire families, including newborn babies in front of their parents, grandparents, raping young girls and finally kidnapping more than 240 innocent civilians, including, again, babies and children, some of whom are the sole survivors of families who were murdered and burned in their homes – is not “another day” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This is the organisation and these are the atrocities against which the State of Israel set out to fight, in order to ensure that such atrocities against its citizens will not be allowed again. Despite all of the aforementioned, the State of Israel is a state of law and therefore its military action on the territory of the Gaza Strip is carried out fully and strictly under international law. There is no army in the history of warfare that has carried out more actions than the IDF has carried out in order to warn and call on the citizens of Gaza to leave the areas of fighting. At the same time, the State of Israel allows humanitarian aid even though it is not obliged to do so according to international law.
Only in the UN organisation can a country like Iran, the world’s biggest violator of human rights, with an emphasis on the rights of women and other minorities, be elected to chair the Human Rights Council
Hamas, on the other hand, violates international law, as mentioned first and foremost in the barbaric attack directed against civilians, in the ground invasion and in launching tens of thousands of missiles at the civilian population. Secondly, it is also converting the entire city of Gaza – its civilian neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools, community centres and amusement parks – into military headquarters or missile launch sites against Israel. And thirdly, Hamas is preventing civilians from taking Israel’s warnings and heading south to safer areas, even by shooting at its fleeing residents. In all of these actions, Hamas bears direct and exclusive responsibility, not only for the murder and kidnapping of Israeli civilians, but also for the killing of innocents on the Palestinian side.
And regarding the ceasefire, it is worth mentioning again that on 6th October there was not only a ceasefire, but the State of Israel had even increased the number of work permits issued for Gazan citizens to work in Israel. Hamas bears the sole responsibility for its violation and the current fighting in the Gaza Strip, fighting that will end when the legitimate goals set by our government are achieved: first and foremost, the return of all the abductees to their homes and families and the elimination of Hamas as a political and military force in the Gaza Strip.
The Resolution on Gaza adopted by a two-thirds majority in the UN General Assembly also calls for an “immediate humanitarian truce”. Why was this resolution unacceptable to Israel?
― The United Nations was established after the horrors of the Second World War, primarily the extermination of the Jewish people, with one stated goal: to prevent the recurrence of such horrors. Unfortunately, this organisation has been failing to fulfil this goal consistently and for many years and, unfortunately, has turned itself into a politically biased organisation that is run on the basis of geopolitical power groups. And, indeed, the results are as unprofessional as one could expect: only in the UN organisation can a country like Iran, the world’s biggest violator of human rights, with an emphasis on the rights of women and other minorities, be elected to chair the Human Rights Council.
In the same way, the same organisation can manage an entire network of schools and hospitals in Gaza, while turning a blind eye to their transformation into military headquarters and missile launch sites by Hamas. Therefore, of course, it is not a surprise that the secretary general of this organisation does not condemn the crimes against humanity committed by Hamas. If the UN had existed in its current configuration in the 1940s, I can guess that there would have been a majority to condemn the U.S. for the invasion of Normandy.
What conditions are required for peace negotiations to be launched and who should participate in those negotiations?
― Allow me to underline that today we live in a different, completely new reality, as a result of the October 7th massacre. There is no peace process with Hamas and never will be, just as there was no peace process between the Allies and Hitler and there was none between the U.S. and Al Qaeda or ISIS. Murderous terrorist organisations are not partners in peace negotiations, but only for elimination. What should be the agenda for such negotiations, in what form would we prefer to be murdered, to be raped or kidnapped? Unfortunately, it is not only Hamas that cannot be our partner for peace negotiations in the future, but also any other Palestinian leadership that has refrained from condemning or at least coming out openly against the monstruous massacre of Israeli citizens.
Does the danger exist that the operations in Gaza could spread to a conflict that engulfs the broader Middle East region?
Let me start with the obvious, as has been reiterated time and again: Israel will not be the one to initiate an escalation to more fronts. But, once again, this question shouldn’t be addressed to us in the first place, but rather to the main initiator of every act of destabilisation in the region: the Islamic Republic of Iran. You don’t need to be a very sophisticated investigator to find the fingerprints of Iran on every act of violence against my country, with money, weapons and technological support, you name it. And, of course, they are a very directly and imminent threat through their main proxy Hezbollah, and now also through the Houthis in Yemen.
In confronting all of these “potential” threats, which – as we have seen in Gaza – are not just theoretical threats, Israel has already evacuated tens of thousands of its civilians from the proximity of the Lebanese border and additionally issued a very clear message to Hezbollah not to make the detrimental mistake of a full-scale attack against us, which will possibly lead to the full destruction of Lebanon. And yet, for the longer term, no one should expect Israel to live with this threat permanently.
Are there any solutions that could bring durable and sustained peace between Israel and Palestine, ending many decades of conflict?
I hope one day the Palestinian people and their automatic supporters around the world will finally start demanding accountability from their own leadership for the fact that they have not had their own state for so long. Only once they start to do that will the first seed for peace be planted on their side.
The launch of operations of Israeli forces in Gaza has led to an increase in the number of attacks against Palestinians, but also the number of murders in the West Bank. Does the danger exist of the conflict also escalating in that region and, if so, who would bear the responsibility for that?
Well, I have already answered this question. I will just add that no murder was committed in the West Bank, but only routine activity against terrorist centres and activists. Whoever wants to call the elimination of terrorists a murder will find those terrorists very quickly in their own backyard, here in the Balkans and throughout Europe. Israel was not interested in the war in Gaza in the first place and, of course, is not interested in its expansion to other fronts, but at the same time we will continue to do everything necessary, on all those fronts, in order to provide defence to our residents, just as any other sovereign country would do.
Numerous international organisations that have representatives on the ground in Palestine (UNRWA, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders) have indicated that, during operations ostensibly directed against terrorist organisation Hamas, Israeli forces are not refraining from attacking civilians, hospitals, refugee columns and camps housing those expelled from Gaza. How would you comment on claims that ethnic cleansing and war crimes are being committed by Israelis on the ground?
― For me, the UN is part of the problem and not part of the solution, and all those who are now complaining about the harm to civilians should ask themselves where they were and why they allowed this war crime, of turning hospitals into terrorist headquarters, to happen under their noses. If anyone in the world still lacks evidence to prove what we have been saying for years, the cameras that accompany the entry of the IDF into those hospitals prove to the whole world that there is not a single hospital in the entire Gaza Strip that has not been turned into a terrorist headquarters by Hamas. Anyone who did not act to prevent this has committed a war crime and anyone who, even now, directs their criticism against Israel instead of Hamas is doubling the crime.
In such horrific events like the October 7th attack there is no room for anything else but a very clear moral stand. There can be no grey areas – just black and white. Whoever in the UN and in the international community tries to put any blame on Israel is simply collaborating with Hamas and will find himself on the very wrong moral side of history.
The State of Israel is a state of law and therefore its military action on the territory of the Gaza Strip is carried out fully and strictly under international law
Indeed, unfortunately, there are innocent casualties on both sides, but this is where the comparison between the two sides begins and ends
Hamas bears direct and exclusive responsibility, not only for the murder and kidnapping of Israeli civilians, but also for the killing of innocents on the Palestinian side