NEW DELHI: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has told External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that the latest Gaza operation was a “pure act of self-defence”, even as the NDA Government insisted in Parliament that there was no change in support for Palestine and forestalled any resolution condemning the Israeli attack.
It was during his telephone conversation with the Indian counterpart on Monday that the Israeli Minister justified the bombardment of Gaza strip. “Liberman briefed Sushma on the prevailing situation. He also talked about how 18,000 rockets have been targeted at Israel since the pullout from Gaza in 2005,” Deputy Chief of Israeli Mission Yahel Vilan told Express. Following the killing of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, Israel had begun aerial bombardment of Gaza strip against Hamas targets. Hamas retaliated by launching rockets, but they were countered by defensive “Iron Dome” technology. After two weeks of offensive, the causalities now stand at over 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis. This was the second time that the two Foreign Ministers have spoken in as many months of Modi Government. Earlier, when Sushma took over as External Affairs Minister Lieberman had telephoned her to congratulate her.
The timing of Monday’s phone call with the debate in the Raja Sabha was just a coincidence, as it had been scheduled much earlier.
Vilan refused to be drawn into Parliament debate over Gaza, which was agreed to by the government after the Opposition stalled the proceedings last week. He described the debate as India’s “internal political mechanism”.
Contrary to what the Opposition and other observers claimed, Vilan asserted that there was no difference on the NDA Government’s official position on Gaza operation, as well as the UPA’s stance.
When pointed out that constituents of the UPA had asked for a resolution to condemn Israel, Vilan evaded a direct comment, saying it was purly a political matter.
The Israeli diplomat said the BRICS stance was “as expected under the circumstances”.
To the question if Israel used “disproportionate” force, he said the term (disproportionate) was tricky. “We had 18,000 rockets raining on us. If we didn’t have “Iron Dome”, the casualties would have been hundreds. Would that be proportionate enough,” the Israeli diplomat asked.
He said the Israeli Army had taken care not to target civilians, by sending out warnings to evacuate. Vilan pointed out that Hamas had rejected the Egyptian offer for a ceasefire, which could have prevented the casualties. “It’s very clear that Hamas is responsible for the fatalities inside Gaza,” he said. India had on Monday supported the Egyptian initiative. Vilan, however, said the ceasefire “was no longer on the table” and there was a need to modify it to reflect the “current circumstances”.
It seems, the only solution to the long-drawn conflict is for both sides to sit down across the table. “A direct talk with them is a far cry... Israel and Abu Mazen (Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas) have to sit down and both make bold concessions,” Vilan said.