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Israel and Britain standing firm against terror and extremism

Submitted by on 23 Nov 2010 – 17:42

By Ron Prosor, Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom

The friendship and cooperation between our democratic countries is as vital now as it has ever been. The loophole in the law on universal jurisdiction which anti-Israeli, anti-American and anti-democratic activists are exploiting and abusing must be closed. I welcome Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s statement of intent to resolve this issue as a step in the right direction. It is crucial that intent is translated into constructive change.

An era-defining struggle with global repercussions is taking place between the forces of moderation and potential and the perils of extremism and terror. Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority began in Washington in September. Just prior to this, Hamas issued a chilling reminder of the dangers Israel faces. Four Israeli civilians were shot dead, an atrocity Hamas described as “a heroic operation.”

The Hamas charter advocates the destruction of the State of Israel, the genocide of Jews and the imposition of shariah law. When an organisation’s constitution venerates your murder, it is difficult to know how negotiations should begin-perhaps with a discussion of the flowers for one’s funeral.

The International Quartet defines three principles Hamas must adopt to take part in negotiations. It must renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. At no point has Hamas indicated any intention to adopt those principles.

Groucho Marx famously quipped: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them … well, I have –others.” Those who advocate talking to Hamas are urging a Groucho-Marxist policy in a complex, unstable region.

This August marked the fifth anniversary of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. We withdrew every Israeli soldier and citizen, gambling on the formula of land for peace. Instead of peace and progress we received missiles and misery, as Hamas launched thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians.

In 2006, it kidnapped Gilad Shalit, holding him in isolation for four years without a single visit from the Red Cross. In 2007, Hamas attacked its own people, chasing Fatah out of Gaza and hurling its Palestinian brothers from the rooftops. It imposed an Islamic penal code and routinely tortures and murders political opponents. Simultaneously, it relentlessly attacked Israelis and, with Iranian support, stockpiled weapons which can hit Tel Aviv.

As the missile bombardment became unbearable, we targeted the terrorist infrastructure through Operation Cast Lead. We tried to stop the flood of weapons through a naval blockade. This May, the Turkish IHH flotilla attempted to break the blockade. Many were quick to jump to conclusions about Israel’s defensive measures. Subsequent evidence confirmed that the flotilla was not only “peace activists” delivering aid, but pro-Hamas activists delivering life-threatening violent provocation.

Israel and the international community face a choice between a painful path of compromise with the Palestinian Authority, and the dead end of Hamas extremism: difficulty or impossibility, Abbas or Hamas.
Israel requested direct negotiations with the PA for over a year, taking steps to bring its president Mahmoud Abbas to the table. We reaffirmed our commitment to a two-state solution in June 2009. Asked to halt building in the West Bank, we introduced an unprecedented freeze on settlements. The ten-month moratorium has gone way beyond terms ever agreed by any Israeli government, left or right. Even in areas which, most analysts accept, will remain part of Israel under any deal, construction ceased.
The PA squandered nine months of the freeze, preferring to campaign against Israel in international forums. Now talks have begun, the PA has a historic opportunity to follow President Sadat of Egypt and Jordan’s King Hussein who signed treaties with Israel which stand to this day.

The Israeli public needs international and Palestinian measures to repair its confidence. 78% of Israelis back a two-state solution but only 32% believe talks will lead to peace. Security is the key to overcoming that scepticism. The scars of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza five years ago remain.

Looming like a dark mushroom cloud is the danger of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. Every challenge would be immeasurably worse if a fanatical regime, which exports terror while preaching our destruction, has a nuclear bomb. A nuclear Iran would threaten not only Israel but the more pragmatic Arab states. It could unleash its Hamas and Hezbollah proxies at will. British and American interests in the region would be threatened, as would the energy resources on which the world relies.

It is crucial we halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Britain has played a key role in galvanising the international community to take action on Iran. It is important it continues to do so. To paraphrase Churchill, divided all will fail but together, nothing is impossible. The friendship between Britain and Israel is an asset as together we strive to defend our values, protect our freedom and safeguard our futures.