By Barry Rubin
Interview of Israel Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni in Newsweek
Translation in italics
WEYMOUTH: How does Israel respond to the pressure for a ceasefire from the global community?
LIVNI: I don't like the term "ceasefire," since it looks like an agreement between two legitimate sides. At the end of the day, this is not a conflict between two states but a fight against terror. We will continue to fight terrorism. We need to fight in Gaza because [Hamas] has targeted Israel for eight years.
Israeli policy is not to use the term ceasefire as it makes Hamas an equal partner. We will continue—because we know that no “solution” or “ceasefire” or “diplomatic solution” will end the Hamas attacksYour aim is to weaken Hamas?
To weaken them and to affect their motivation. [Also,] we need to stop the smuggling of weapons [into Gaza].
This is very important. Israel’s three war goals:
---Weaken Hamas, making it harder for them to attack Israel
--deter them: to dissuade them from attacking Israel
--stop smuggling: so they cannot have the arms to attack Israel effectively as part of a ceasefire including better control of the Egyptian border.
....We need to know that at the end of this military operation, we will not face the rearmament of Hamas.
A summary of the third point above
Do you see the hand of Iran behind it all?
Oh, yes, clearly. When Hamas started, the missiles were made in the Gaza Strip. Now they are professional, coming from Iran.
This is significant: Iran is attacking Israel through Hamas. This shows how extreme Iran is: waging war indirectly in Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq. Have no illusions of moderating Iran.Will Israel reoccupy Gaza?
The idea is not to reoccupy Gaza....
KEY POINTIt must have been a difficult decision to send Israeli troops into Gaza by land.
Yes, it was a very difficult decision, but right now it looks good.
Genuine confidence. Things are going well.
Are you worried that Hamas will claim victory as Hassan Nasrallah [the leader of Hizbullah] did in Lebanon?
They are [hiding] underground, taken by surprise, asking Hizbullah to do something—nobody [has] helped them. I am sure they will find a place on Al-Jazeera to claim victory. But after what we did there, it is not related to reality.
They will claim victory but we want them and others to know it isn’t true even if they say the opposite in public because knowing it is a lie will affect their behavior.
Does the pressure put on Israel by the international community to reach a ceasefire strengthen the hand of Hamas?
Hamas' strategy is resistance and survival. As long as they survive, this is a victory. When they know the international community is putting pressure on Israel, they can hold out, waiting for Israel to be stopped. It is a pity …
The world is in effect defending Hamas, at least to keep it in power. A serious mistake.So that is the message to Hamas?
Yes. Israel is not going to show restraint anymore. We are going to attack strongly if they continue. We are not going to wait years or months.
Important. If there is a ceasefire and they violate it, Israel will hit hard—not like before when it just closed the border for a day.
Do you believe the Obama administration will support Israel the way Bush did?
I do believe that the United States and Israel share not only the same values and interests [but] the same understanding.
Meaning: I don’t know but I hope so....At the end of the day, a state needs to defend itself. We are not looking to reoccupy Gaza and we do not want to control the Palestinians, but we have a situation in which … Hamas is getting stronger, while Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] is getting weaker. The Palestinians need to understand that Israel can share and implement and translate the vision of two states for two peoples with those who accept this vision, who accept Israel's existence and renounce violence and terrorism. Hamas does not. The only way to continue the peace process is not only by continuing the dialogue with their pragmatic leadership, but also by weakening those who are not willing to live in peace in this region. This is the strategy.
Translation: If you want to help the peace process, then help get Hamas out of power or at least let it be badly defeated.
Would you say Hamas needs to be removed?
I would say that the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas is a burden not only to Israel but to the Palestinians themselves. It is an obstacle on their way to creating a state, and it represents the kind of radical elements that threaten other pragmatic regimes in the region.
Translation: Yes but that isn’t in our ability right now.
Do you feel you have the backing of the Arab moderates?
I don't want to embarrass anybody, but I know I represent their interests as well. It is no longer the Israeli-Palestinian or the Jewish-Arab conflict, but it is a conflict between moderates and extremists. This is the way this region is now divided.