APA Information Agency interviewed George Deek, Israel's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Azerbaijan
“War with Hamas is for the future of humanity”
– What happened on October 7, 2023, shocked the world. We know how Israeli security forces and intelligence services are advanced and well-capable. So, why was Israel not ready for these brutal attacks and did not know before about HAMAS's attacks? Considering that in the last several months due to the proposed judicial reforms, there was a kind of division in Israeli society. To what extent can this factor play a role?
– On October 7th Hamas invaded the homes of Israelis in the South of Israel. They massacred our families in their homes. Babies were murdered in their cribs, and young girls were violently raped over the dead bodies of their friends. In one case the terrorists opened the belly of a pregnant woman, while she was still alive, took out the baby fetus, killed the baby with a knife, and then shot the mother dead.
Over 1,400 Israelis were murdered, and over 240 Israelis were kidnapped. 32 of the kidnapped are babies and children between 9 months old and 5 years old. They’re there alone without parents, held hostage to this very day by heartless terrorists. Naama, a 19-year-old Israeli girl is seen on a video being pulled by the hair, paraded like a trophy in the streets of Gaza, blood between her legs from God knows what was done to her.
How this happened is a difficult question that haunts all of us in Israel. But the answers will be investigated after the war. What Hamas did is an act of war. They declared war on Israel. So right now we are focused on one thing: making sure that no Israeli child will ever have to be afraid of being murdered in his bed by terrorists. For that to happen we will have to utterly and completely defeat Hamas.
– The international community admits and supports the right of self-defense of Israel but also calls for the protection of civilians in Gaza. In Gaza, the death toll is over 7000 and most of them are civilians. Considering Israeli military capacity, I mean, how advanced it is, I want to ask if is it not possible to conduct more targeted operations.
– This is a war we didn’t want. It’s a war that was forced upon us by Hamas. We don’t have a choice but to fight and win. A leader of Hamas just said openly and publicly that they plan to repeat what they did on October 7th over and over and over again, until the complete destruction of Israel. If there is a lesson we learned on that dark day – it’s that when your enemies threaten to kill you, believe them. They mean it.
We cannot live with Hamas right across the border, continuing to attack us and terrorize Israelis. So we are making sure that the threat of Hamas is eliminated. But unlike Hamas, we do care about the lives of civilians, including those in Gaza. Israel is a law-abiding country, and the IDF is a professional army that conducts its operations in accordance with the international laws of armed conflict.
We only attack military targets, and take immense measures to protect Palestinian civilians. We provide early warnings whenever possible. We asked people to evacuate certain regions, we dropped leaflets from planes with details to the civilians when and where to go in order to be safe. My heart breaks to see Palestinian civilians suffering. The party responsible for their suffering is solely Hamas.
Hamas forced upon us this war, and on top of that, they intentionally put their civilians in harm's way. They use the people of Gaza as human shields to protect their terrorists. Hamas invested so much money and cement that was supposed to serve the people of Gaza, in order to build a huge network of tunnels underground. How many shelters did they build for the citizens? Zero. One of their leaders even publicly said that it’s not their task to take care of the civilians. Can you imagine the cynicism, the cruelty? Not only that, they block civilians from being able to evacuate areas we warn them about and force them to stay in dangerous areas. Hamas places its offices under hospitals. It launches rockets from schools and mosques. They don’t care about the people of Gaza.
– Most people blamed Egypt for not showing solidarity with Palestinians, (to open the border for those people). But President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said: "The displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt means the same displacement will take place for Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan. Subsequently, the Palestinian state that we are talking about and that the world is talking about will become impossible to implement -- because the land is there, but the people are not". According to some, the Israeli government calling Palestinians in Gaza to leave the territory has this goal - ethnic cleansing... As an Israeli diplomat, what is your answer to these accusations?
– Would people rather we didn’t ask civilians to leave the northern part of Gaza? Should we attack Hamas terrorists there while civilians are still around? I hope people understand how crazy that sounds. We asked them to leave temporarily, from one part of Gaza to another part inside the Gaza Strip. We did this to protect them because we don’t want them to suffer from the Hamas attacks there and our attempts to stop them.
Did you know that Israel evacuated 100,000 people from the area around Gaza and from the North in the area close to Lebanon? We did it to make sure they didn’t get hurt.
Israel does not want or intend to rule the Gaza Strip after the war. But we will make sure Hamas doesn’t govern it either.
– HAMAS kidnapped 233 Israelis - kids, women, the elderly. When Israel started its ground operation, everyone worried about the lives of those kidnapped and whether they could be killed by HAMAS as revenge…
– Whoever touches one hair from the heads of the hostages, of our babies, our women, our grandparents, our brothers and sisters there, will pay a very, very heavy price. We will hunt down each and every single one of those terrorists who were involved in the massacre of 7/10. We are using technology to identify them all, to the last one, and they will all face justice soon.
– The Ambassador of Palestine said that Hamas is a symptom, not an ailment. According to him, if Israeli government policy were different then Hamas would not be founded. What is your opinion on that?
– I didn’t hear the Palestinian ambassador condemn the Hamas massacre of 7/10. I didn’t hear the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah condemn it either. That’s shameful. I wonder how the ambassador explains the fact that Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 by throwing the representatives of the government he represents, the Palestinian Authority, from the balconies. Does he also blame Israel for that?
He has a point, though. Hamas is indeed just a symptom. It’s a symptom of the fact that the Palestinian leadership refuses to recognize that Jews, as a nation, have an equal right to self-determination in the land of Israel. Until today, the Palestinian Authority – not Hamas, but those who are considered moderates – name squares and stadiums after terrorists who killed Jews like Dalal Mugrabi. They pay salaries to terrorists in jail with a sick formula – the more you murder the more money you get. This culture of hate, of glorifying terror and murder – that is the ailment that Hamas is a symptom of.
– The President and PM of Israel warned Hezbollah and Iran. I want to ask about the risk of escalation beyond the current borders...
– Everybody knows that Iran is the octopus that is sending its different arms, and proxies, throughout the region. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, and try to establish more proxies, even here in Azerbaijan. The root cause of the tension in the Middle East is the Iranian desire to destroy Israel, but they prefer not to do it themselves, maybe because they are afraid, but through their pawns. As they say, Iran will fight Israel to the last Arab. Can this war escalate? It is up to them. We will not escalate it, but if they do – we are ready.
– What will be the effect of this war on the relations between Israel and the Arab countries? In particular, in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, we know that in recent months there was intensive dialogue between the parties.
– You are touching perhaps the most important point. The circle of peace between Israel and the Arab world has been growing consistently over the past years. We have peace with Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and others. We are on a normalization track with Saudi Arabia.
Iran is very troubled by this. They understand that Israel and the Arab world are aware of the Iranian danger to take over the region, and are working together to stop them, and to bring prosperity to the region, instead of the wars and miseries that Iran brings anywhere it goes.
In many ways, this war is an attempt by Hamas, backed by Iran, to damage this process. I do not think they will succeed. If anything, this war will bring Israel and the Arab governments even closer together – we can see that we share the same enemy who is trying to kill us. The same Houthis that attacked Saudi Arabia, are now attacking Israel, for example. So I am even more optimistic about peace today.
– The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel ordered the evacuation of some embassies from some Muslim countries, recently from Türkiye, as well. I want to ask about the Embassy in Baku. Is there any change in the Embassy activity?
– Our Embassy in Baku continues its diplomatic, consular, and other services. We have full cooperation with the government of Azerbaijan which is in charge of the safety of all diplomatic missions, including the Israeli one.
– From both sides, the civilians suffered the most in this war. Children, young people, and families were killed from both sides. All countries speak about peace, and a two-state solution, but during those years nothing changed in terms of status-quo. Why?
– The war can end today. For that to happen Hamas needs to release the hostages and surrender. If they don’t do that, Israel will not relent until Hamas is destroyed. This is not a war about politics or territory. This is a war for the future of humanity. There can be no compromise.
Later on, for peace to be possible, the Palestinian leadership has to make a clear and public commitment to end the century-long Palestinian war against Jewish self-determination in any part of the land and make a strategic decision to make peace with the Jewish state. They must put an end to the culture of hate of glorifying terrorists and paying a reward to terrorists, and commit to educating the Palestinian society in the spirit of peace and tolerance.
Everything else – territory, statehood, and all that – will follow.
Our children, Israelis, and Palestinians deserve to live in a world as it should be, a world of tolerance, friendship, and coexistence.