As war rages in Gaza, Israel's ambassador to India, Alon Ushpiz, tells NDTV's Nitin Gokhale that Iran is behind Hamas in creating terror but admits there is no quick fix solution to the problem. Below is the full transcript of the interview:
NDTV: Thank you for your time, Tell me what actually caused the latest flare off in Gaza?
Alon Ushpiz: I think the whole thing should be put into the certain context and the context starts in 2005 when Israel totally evacuated the Gaza street with the hope that Gaza will become a shiny example for prosperity in co-existence. And then what we got in return in the last, I should say seven years, is a barrage of 12,000 rockets, which is an inconceivable number. As we speak, we have over 1 million people in the Southern part of Israel unable to conduct their daily life , not able to go schools, not able to their working places, spending in Shabbat, which is a Jewish holiday, in shelters in which they have to go to in a span of time of 15 seconds. Just imagine what a human being can do in 15 minutes. On top of this, since the last Saturday we have a chain of events in which in Army patrols of these very side of fence was then attacked by the anti-tank missile in which the Hamas organisation was responsible for this used a tunnel in order to try and attack our people. By the way, a tunnel which is similar to things which you are very capable and bear security agencies enforces deals with other parts of India. So you have a situation that is going on for years in which we are faced with very severe security situations and our citizens are exposed to daily hardship and then in the end of the day, even the most restrained governed country society has to use the right of the self-defence and implement the duty of the government to protect its citizens.
NDTV: So, it was building up as I can see from your answer, but the Israeli defence forces targeted the Hamas military chief the other day and that's where actually the trigger point came in, is what everybody is now saying. How true is that?
Alon Ushpiz: Well, once again, I mean if you look at the figures of the rocket launchers and the mortar shells that were shot at the southern part of the Israel. Since Saturday and till the beginning of the Israeli operations 'Pillar of Defence', we had the 120 rockets which is a very substantial number. Now let me just say one word of this man Akhman Jamal- we are speaking about the man who's the conductor of the orchestra of the terrorism. He has literally the blood of hundreds of Israelis. He was the chief engineer of every terrorist activity Hamas launched out of the Gaza. He was the chief planner and executor of the abduction of the Israeli solider Gilad Shalit in 2006. He's the one responsible for the fact for years that this young Israeli was locked in a dungeon we found access out of their International Red Cross. I have to tell you that I have a feeling that the world is a better place and a safer place. We found him.
NDTV: But looking at the larger picture, what is the current situation one, and two, don't you think you and the recent flare up or the current flare up is added to the volatility in the west Asia . How are you going to deal with that?
Alon Ushpiz: Well the current situation right now is that since the beginning of the operation, we have faced once again about 400 rockets launched at us exceeding the boundaries which we have been used to so far. Last night there were launches towards the area of the Laviva, the centre of Israel. We have three causalities including one lady Meena Sharef who was residing, actually she was living in New Delhi and she went to Israel for a short vacation. She was pregnant. Her husband was hospitalised, one of the kids is still hospitalised. We have about, I should say, 55 wounded people. Arial strikes are still going on. The visit of Egyptian Prime Minister in the Gaza is still going on and I should say during the visit of that Egyptian Prime Minister, Hamas has launched, Hamas and other organisations have launched 21 missiles. This is a very focused and surgical operation. We have the aim of restoring the normal life for the citizens of the Israeli side and we have to take care of Hamas. I think these are two elements indispensably for us to function as a normal society, as a normal state. And I think that at the end of the day we will achieve this.
NDTV: You think there's already international mediation? Efforts have started, I mean the Egyptians have said that they want to try and reconcile the two sides or at least stop the operations. Where does that those kinds of efforts really stand?
Alon Ushpiz: Let me raise a couple of points on this regards. First of all, I have to say that looking at the international response when it comes to our operation, I think one has to admit that the reactions are more than quite positive. If you take for example the close door session that took place in the UN security council just about 48 hours ago, you can see that statements very positive statements from all kinds of countries speaking about the whole thing made responsibility of Hamas. Hamas is internationally recognised terrorist organisation, the most important recognition of Israel's rights for self-defence. Now these things take time. One unfortunately does not have a quick fix, you don't have silver bullets. But I think you know time will take its course. Let me add one point regarding Egypt. Egypt is a strategic partner of Israel, the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel is, I believe, the strategic part, it is an asset for both sides. It is also a strategic part and asset to simulate when it comes to original stability. Now obviously the peace treaty reflects Israeli interest and Egyptian interest and we fully respect the Egyptian interest. But we also have to take care of the security of more than 1 million people in the Southern part of Israel. So we are going to reconcile these two.
NDTV: Are there other nations, other forces behind Hamas to actually attack and flare up the situation and can you identify them?
Alon Ushpiz: Sure. Well, first of all you have to understand, one has to understand that the Gaza strip has become a hot bed for International terrorism actually. It goes way beyond Hamas or Palestinian Jihad or other Palestinian terrorist organisation. You have well Jihad elements active in Gaza strip, you have all kinds of extremely active groups in Gaza strip and then infiltrating to Sion and become the source of problem for the Egyptian government. But, if you look at the essence of the whole thing, if you look once again at the core issues of this, you once again unfortunately will find the footprints of Iran which is the biggest source of instability in west Asia and Middle-East. And I'll give you maybe one or two shining examples of this thing. One of the actions of the IDF in the course of the operation of 'Pillar of Defence' was our Israeli air force going after long range rockets Fajr 5. These rockets are not manufactured in the Gaza strip, they come from the outside and the source is Iran, so they come from Iran through places like Sudan, they go and cross the Sion peninsula and go into the Gaza strip. Second example which I think is very important because this organisation is taking front and centre role in the whole terrorist activity in Gaza strip is the very strong bond, which is even stronger than a link; it's a strategic bond between Iran and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This is terrorist organisation which is basically the flesh and blood of the Iranian regime. So, wherever you look there, whether it is events in the Syria taking place. You'll find thousands of Iranians and thousands of Hezbollah terrorists taking part in the battles on the side of this very evil regime of President Assad. But even if you look at the southern part of, the southern part of these strategic arena, you will find the same footprint.
NDTV: So, you think Iran is behind it. Have you been speaking to Indian leadership or Indian officers here and what has been their response to this current flare up?
Alon Ushpiz: Well, obviously we don't go into the details of the diplomatic correspondence between us or our friends in India, in any place. But I should stress that Israelis in India have tremendously friendly relationships.
NDTV: Has India supported you in this particular operation?
Alon Ushpiz: We haven't asked for support.
NDTV: You haven't asked for it?
Alon Ushpiz: We have an iron glared policy when it comes to our defence that which is almost very similar to the Indian policy. We rely on ourselves and take our decisions by ourselves. We have very fine discussion, interaction between us and friends and India is certainly very close friends.
NDTV That brings me to last years or some months over the attack which happened on your one of diplomats here in New Delhi, what has been the progress in the investigation in that respect?
Alon Ushpiz: Well I don't think that we Israelis should speak on the behalf of the investigation because at the end of the day this is India, we are welcome here as your guests and we fully trust your security agencies and investigating organisations. Suffice it to say what we'd been saying that from day 1 which is, this is a terrorist attack against the Israel diplomatic of New Delhi and we know the exact strength behind it and this is another evil, vicious operation.
NDTV: One final, question during this current operation one has been as a media person, one's interest has been to look at the kind of coverage that has been happening and one's interesting thing that the IDF seems to have done is to live blog and live tweet the operation specially the pin pointed attack on the military chief of Hamas. Is this a deliberate strategy on and if it so or even it is not so, why was this adopted? Any idea on that?
Alon Ushpiz: Yeah, well first of all it is. Now, let me try and go on some details which touch upon the reason I think why it is solely dispensable. One has to admit that the world is changing, media is not now what it was 10 years ago. The way, the importance of social networks is hundreds times more than what it used to be. So, one has to adopt because it is in arena you cannot neglect. I have to tell you as a government official, I think , the government officials , bureaucrats and citizens should applaud government when they choose the way of transparency and nothing healthier than which is not less important. These fights that we are having and it's true that Israelis are having for a long time but we are not alone the fight of the international community against the international terrorist, it's not just Israeli. Indians have it, Americans have it and many other European countries have it, this is a long term war that once again unfortunately we don't have a quick fix for. One has to realise that the media is an arena that one has to be a part of this and one has to recognise that looking at your foe on the other side, that these people are very vicious and in some cases very capable, but they are not characterised by high level of credibility and to undermine their very low level of credibility, I believe that its government's duty to share whatever is possible with media or through media directly with public opinion. I think this is the shining example of how things should be now. It's a very well calculated and managed policy of sharing information with public in real time, use it as very well through time.