French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday that France is interested in “preventing a war in the long run, and bringing about a ceasefire in the short run.”
Fabius held separate meetings on Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, each of whom delivered a similar message: Only when Hamas ceases firing missiles from Gaza at population centers will Israel be willing to discuss a ceasefire.
Fabius said that, due to the difficult situation of Israeli citizens and the deaths being suffered in the Gaza Strip, he is also in contact with the Palestinian Authority in an effort to end the current hostilities.
Peres said on Sunday that Hamas cannot claim that they are fighting the occupation, because there is no occupation. “We voluntarily left Gaza (during the 2005 disengagement),” said the president, “and they fire at us when our children are leaving school.” He added that “Israel has set itself a goal to end the rocket fire and to allow the mothers in the south a good night’s sleep, something that hasn’t happened for too long.”
“The solution is a ceasefire. We want to help to find the terms of a ceasefire,” said Fabius before his meeting with Liberman. He added that “war must be avoided, and can be avoided.”
Netanyahu, who met with Fabius after the morning’s cabinet meeting, said that Israel would only be ready to consider a truce once the rocket fire ceased.
“First the shooting must stop, then we can discuss everything else,” he said.
Liberman said that Israel appreciates the efforts made by France to prevent the killing and to reach a long-term solution. However, “no nation can accept a situation in which more than a million people are in bomb shelters,” he added.
Fabius’s visit is one of several high-level trips by senior European government officials who are attempting to push Israel toward reaching a truce with Hamas.
In the coming days, Israeli officials plan to meet with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, as well as with high-level British officials.
A senior government source said on Sunday that at this stage “a cessation of fire is what is on the table. If we can achieve that through dialogue and understanding, that would be great. But if a ground assault is ultimately needed in order to protect Israeli citizens, then that’s what will be.”