The Israeli army should be given the Nobel Peace Prize for its “unimaginable restraint” in Gaza, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said Tuesday.

During an address at the Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington, Dermer was interrupted several times by hecklers, but delivered a passionate and warmly received speech in defense of Operation Protective Edge, calling Iran the “Great Evil” and accusing the United Nations and human rights groups of inadvertently aiding Hamas in its war against Israel.

“Some are shamelessly accusing Israel of genocide and would put us in the dock for war crimes,” Dermer said. “But the truth is that the Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize… a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

Dermer’s comments followed a statement issued by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who on Sunday said that the IDF is the “most humane and bravest army in the world.”

During World War II, the British army responded to German attacks with the “carpet bombing of German cities,” Dermer said. While he was unwilling to criticize the United Kingdom for doing so, he continued, “at the same time, I will not accept, and no one should accept, criticism of Israel for acting with restraint that has not been shown and would not be shown by any nation on earth. I especially will not tolerate criticism of my country at a time when Israeli soldiers are dying so that innocent Palestinians can live.”

At that point in Dermer’s speech, given to a packed auditorium of Christian Israel supporters, he was interrupted by hecklers. “There is a section for moral idiots at the back of the room,” he responded, according to a transcript of the speech posted to his Facebook page.

“Israel did not have to send its soldiers into many of the places they are fighting today. We could have given people time to evacuate these areas — which we did anyway — and then bombed from the air all the buildings that were being used by fighters to store and fire weapons. But we didn’t. As we have done time after time, we are sending our soldiers into this hornet’s nest of Palestinian terror that is booby-trapped with mines and riddled with subterranean tunnels.”

Israel has been harshly criticized for the high number of casualties in Gaza during the current conflict with Hamas. More than 580 people, many of them civilians, have been killed since the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, according to Palestinian sources. Israel has lost 27 soldiers in its effort to end rocket fire from terrorists in Gaza, thwart Hamas “attack tunnels” and restore calm to Israel’s cities.

Rather than censure, Dermer said, Israel deserves the international community’s admiration, as no army in history has taken greater care than the IDF to protect innocents.

Observers of the conflict should keep in mind the “moral difference” between Israel and Hamas, the US-born Israeli diplomat said. “It is a battle between a compassionate country that’s dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages to save Palestinian civilians, and a brutal terror organization that uses hospitals as military command centers, manufactures rockets next to mosques and turns UN schools into weapons depots.”

Hamas is “doing everything to put Palestinian civilians into harm’s way – by ignoring IDF warnings to evacuate, by forcing Palestinians to serve as human shields, and by placing missile batteries next to playgrounds, hospitals and homes,” he said. “And you know why Hamas is doing this? It’s not only because of the evil they represent – and it may not be politically correct, but they are evil. After all, an organization that is capable of producing scores of suicide bombers doesn’t care a whit about Palestinian civilians losing their lives.

“But Hamas also uses its strategy of human shields because it works… Because time after time, when Palestinian civilians die, when those heart-wrenching pictures of women and children appear on television – pictures that would move any decent human being – the blame is placed on Israel and the pressure is put on Israel.”

The IDF, on the other hand, is doing everything to get Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, said Dermer, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Quoting Edmund Burke to the effect that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people do nothing, the Israeli diplomat said that the behavior of the UN and many human rights organizations was worse than being silent in the face of evil.

“They attack the good. They attack Israel for its legitimate actions of self-defense. They file Goldstone reports accusing Israel of war crimes,” Dermer said, referring to a UN report that was hugely critical of Israel’s 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead. Those organizations are indeed better than Hamas in that they don’t intentionally harm Palestinian civilians, he allowed, “but in convincing Hamas that its strategy of using human shields will be effective, they are unwittingly serving as their accomplices.”

In his fiery speech, the Israeli ambassador also hailed the Kurds in Northern Iraq “for their decency and humanity,” and took a dig at Iran and Hezbollah. “Hamas in Gaza is the little evil. The ayatollah regime in Iran is the great evil,” he said. “I don’t mean to offend Hezbollah but they’re just the medium-size evil.”