On day two of Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel was getting strong support from several Western countries, led by the United States, while Egypt, Jordan, Russia and Turkey condemned the resort to force as disproportionate and overly aggressive.
“It is obvious that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself and protect its own citizens against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Thursday. “Now it is necessary that everyone contributes to deescalating the situation. Everybody needs to understand that we need to prevent worse things from happening. We call upon all parties to act wisely and in a deescalating manner,” Westerwelle said at press conference in Paris.
His British colleague William Hague said that Hamas “bears principal responsibility” for the current escalation of violence, condemning the organization and other terrorist groups for firing rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. “This creates an intolerable situation for Israeli civilians in southern Israel, who have the right to live without fear of attack from Gaza. The rocket attacks also risk worsening the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which is already precarious,” the foreign secretary said in a statement released on Thursday.
“Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza should cease attacks against Israel immediately,” Hague added. “I call on those in the region with influence over Hamas to use that influence to bring about an end to the attacks.”
‘I’ve seen for myself upstairs the devastating effect these rockets have. I have to tell you, personally it is absolutely devastating’
On Wednesday, the British embassy in Tel Aviv had tweeted the following message: “We continue to call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent a dangerous escalation that would be in no one’s interests.” The post has since been removed from the Twitter account.
Britain’s ambassador in Israel, Matthew Gould, sounded much more sympathetic on Thursday, during a visit to the Kiryat Malachi apartment in which three Israeli were killed by rocket fire from Gaza. “I’ve seen for myself upstairs the devastating effect these rockets have. I’ve seen for myself a family that has been destroyed by rocket attack,” he told Israeli reporters. “I have to tell you, personally it is absolutely devastating.”
The French ambassador in Israel, Christophe Bigot, also visited Kiryat Malachi, and expressed his solidarity with Israeli victims of rocket attacks.
The Foreign Ministry in Paris, however, was less supportive of Israel than London in the statement it released. “France is exceedingly worried about the deteriorating situation in Gaza and the South of Israel. It is calling on the parties to refrain from any escalation of violence since the Israeli and the Palestinian civilian population would inevitably pay the price.”
The United States was the first nation to express full solidarity and support for Operation Pillar of Defense. “There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel,” the State Department said in a statement released on Wednesday. “We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties.”
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres spoke to US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, briefing him on Operation Pillar of Defense. Netanyahu has since also spoken to President Francois Hollande of France, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Middle East Quartet representative Tony Blair. “I want to thank them for their understanding of Israel’s need to defend itself, and Israel’s right to defend itself,” Netanyahu told foreign reporters Thursday afternoon.
Other nations were less understanding of Israel’s use of force in Gaza.
“The attacks on southern Israel, as well as Israel’s disproportionate shelling [of targets in Gaza], are entirely unacceptable,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday. “We urge all sides to end the military confrontation immediately and to prevent a new round of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip.”
Turkey, meanwhile, condemned Operation Pillar of Defense.
“We harshly condemn Israel’s offensive and it must be stopped immediately,” a statement released by Ankara’s foreign ministry said. Jerusalem’s campaign in Gaza was the latest incident that proves Israel’s “hostile policies,” the statement read.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters that he had spoken with senior Hamas officials and promised them to pressure the international community to do more to stop Israel’s “aggressive positions,” according to the Today’s Zaman newspaper.
‘This additional hostility to Israel’s policies closes all doors on negotiations and the achievement of political arrangement’
Significantly. the two Arab neighbors with which Israel has peace treaties also denounced Jerusalem for its use of force.
“Israel’s aggressive policy placed the area again in a cycle of violence and instability,” Jordan’s information minister Sameeh Maaytah said. “This additional hostility… closes all doors on negotiations and the achievement of political arrangements. Israel deprives the Palestinian people of their political and national right to create an independent state… Israel’s aggression needs to be stopped and the Palestinian people need to be protected.”
Egypt was bitterly critical. The country’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi spoke with Obama, and Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr spoke with his American counterpart, Hillary Clinton, late Wednesday night, asking them for immediate US intervention “to stop the Israeli aggression,” Cairo said in a statement.
Egypt also recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv to protest Israel’s military campaign.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, strongly condemned Israel’s assassination of Hamas’s military chief Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday. In a statement, the party called the targeted killing a “crime which should see a fast Arab and international response to stop a wave of similarly bloody massacres against the Palestinian people besieged in the Gaza Strip, and which are being used by the Israeli government for leverage in political conflicts raging within Israel.”
Israel seeks to drag the Middle East into “instability, confusion and chaos,” the statement continued. “But Israel should be warned that the changes recently witnessed in the Arab region, especially in Egypt, cannot allow Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people to go unpunished as in the past.”