One day after the end of hostilities in Gaza. I arrived in Israel. I made a few notes, which I am planning to publish on Jihad Watch. But first I think that our readers need to read my interview with Knesset member Faina Kirschenbaum, which covers the entire current problems of the Middle East.
Joseph Zaalishvili: Thank you, Ms. Kirshenbaum, for your time. A few days ago, Operation Pillar of Cloud ended. The terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as Iranian authorities and major figures of the Islamic world claim that the last military operation proves the collapse of the Israeli Defence Force. In their view, the State of Israel cannot defend itself, and the ceasefire is supposedly proof of this.
Many political forces in Israel have criticized the government, saying that it was too early to end the military operation.
Do you think Operation Pillar of Cloud achieved its military objectives?
Faina Kirshenbaum: In our opinion the operation was very successful. Not one of us had any doubt that Hamas would represent it as a victory. Because that is their nature. They must show what they have done. But why do I think that the Operation achieved its objectives? In regard to the military targets, objectives have been achieved. The destruction of military storehouses of the terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip — this goal was achieved. We have evidence that these warehouses were destroyed and that the weapons were destroyed. We have shown that the Israeli army did not remain passive this time: we have the power to resist all these attacks.
The last 12 years, Israel has been continuously shelled from Gaza. Each rocket that falls on our territory is infringing upon the sovereignty of the state. And we had to defend its sovereignty.
One more aim was to restore the peace of our southern cities. In this regard, the truce was signed, which I hope will accomplish this, if it will indeed be honored. Mediating this truce was the President of Egypt, Mursi. This could really open up a new era for the Middle East. Egypt’s new leaders were granted the status of a mediator. This may also increase their status and obligations. For its efforts, Egypt will receive American money, and maybe this country will now be able to cope with its economic collapse. It could be a buffer between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
We very much hope the truce will restore peace in the south of Israel. If it doesn’t, and the jihadis continue shelling our southern cities and towns, then we have every right to attack again.
We opened some border passages for Gaza, and we hope that the delivery of arms will not continue through them. We also understand that the weapons arrive in Gaza through tunnels. We hope that the people of Gaza will understand that Israel is giving them the chance to improve their economy and standard of living.
I once again repeat that if Hamas resumes attacks on Israel, we have full international support to put our jet fighters in the air, or to start a ground operation.
Why not continue the operation? When one goes quickly to ground war, once it starts you do not know where you can go from there. Since the State of Israel is in an election campaign, it was not the right time now to start a ground operation. For this, it would hve been necessary to postpone the election. Instead, we decided to end the Operation because it was over. This will allow both sides to improve relations. But if after January 22, that does not happen, then we can always go back to it, and the new government will make a decision. This new government will have four years to go to Gaza or to make a different decision. To make such an important decision with the government that leaves office in a few months, we thought would be wrong.
JZ: A few days ago, the President of Egypt increased his powers, and as we know, he is the guarantor of the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Therefore, the future relations between Egypt and Israel will develop amid mass protests in the Egyptian capital against President Mursi.
FK: We try not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, even those that are close to us. We are against others interfering in our affairs, and we try not to interfere. We are very sensitive to what is going on. We see that in Tahrir Square there are starting again new demonstrations, and we do not want Egypt to again become a country of violence and revolution. Revolution usually ends up with more extremist forces seize power. I repeat that we do not interfere in the affairs of others. We hope that Mursi will continue to be the guarantor of the ceasefire agreement.
JZ: The next question is about Syria. We know in Georgia, and this is confirmed by the Mujahideen of the Caucasus, that jihadists from there are going to Syria, to fight against Assad’s regime on the side of the Syrian opposition. Bashar al-Assad himself does not constitute a civilized side in this conflict; nor does his opposition. How will the situation develop, and what will this mean for Israel and the Middle East?
FK: Of course, when there is a revolution or something like that in a country in the Middle East, it affects the entire Middle East and stability in the region. Not to mention the long-standing conflict in Syria.
For example, when the Syrian opposition is under fire, and the shells fall on Israeli territory, we have to respond. As if we did not, and, but we have to respond. Exactly as with Egypt, we would not want to intervene there. But we have great concern about what might happen in Syria if the opposition comes to power. Who also will also take power: Hizballah, the long arm of Iran, or some other force altogether?
JZ: And Syria has chemical weapons …
FK: Yes, in Syria there are the largest stores of chemical weapons in the region. And it would be very dangerous if these weapons fell into the wrong hands. Again, we do not know which side will win, but would like the “Arab Spring” wind, which has turned into a winter gale, to calm down. I do not yet see how all this will turn out. We all wonder why the UN and the Arab League remain silent on this issue, but every day criticize Israel and support Palestine.
JZ: Meanwhile, Iran continues to make nuclear weapons. How do you think it is possible to stop Iran, and who is able to do?
FK: In his election campaign, the U.S. President promised to do everything to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. After the election of the President of the USA, we started fighting. And we were all busy with the problem. After the ceasefire agreement was announced, we hope that the international community will be engaged in stopping the Iranian nuclear program. New, more stringent sanctions are needed, to show Iran that its economy will collapse. We hope to connect China and Russia to sanctions, too, creating one big bloc against Iran’s nuclear program. If that does not bring results, then there is always the last resort.
JZ: The January 22 elections in Israel. How do you think, after Operation Pillar of Cloud, the balance of power in the Knesset will change?
FK: It is too early to judge the results, but we can already say that the unification of the party “Israel Our Home” with the party “Likud” created one right bloc. We hope that this unit will win. At the head of the unit will be our current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.