«We are outraged by the criticism of British universities. What do they want us to do? Allow our children to be killed? Who are the criminals of war. The aggressors or the defenders?»
This was the message from Israeli President Shimon Peres when he received a delegation of the British Labor Friends of Israel at Beit Hanassi last Thursday.
Members of the delegation headed by MP Andrew Gwynne asked questions about the peace process, the Arab peace initiative, British-Israeli relations, Iran, the Israel economy and the Peres Peace Center.
Regarding British-Israeli relations, a member of the delegation observed that while Prime Minister Gordon Brown is a good friend of Israel’s, relations between the two governments have been strained since Operation Cast Lead.
Peres acknowledged that for many years Israel had enjoyed «the profound and stable support of the Labor Party».
«But», he added, «I am afraid that this is no longer the case».
Throughout the conversation he kept returning to the hypocrisy of the international community which criticizes Israel for defending itself against terrorist attacks, but condones incitement and threats against Israel.
Peres was also fed up with constant charges by the Palestinians that Israel occupied Palestinian land. His response to Palestinian leaders on this issue is: «We did not set out to occupy you – but you attacked us, we defended ourselves and we won».
His attitude to criticism about settlements is similar. Sharing with the BLFI delegation some of the snippets of his meetings with Palestinian leaders, Peres said: «I told the Palestinians, we have settlements because of you, and because of your terrorist attacks».
The story of settlements was extremely difficult for Israel, he said.«The settlements were our answer to terrorism».
Referring to the post-’67 pioneer settlers, Peres noted that they had left their homes in different parts of the country to establish settlements. Now the settlers are agitated, thinking about the different scenarios that could affect their lives.
«We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of Gaza», said Peres, recalling the crisis that the $2.5 billion unilateral withdrawal from Gaza had caused in Israel, and the 1200-plus rockets that had been fired at Israel in the interim.
Source: Jerusalem Post.