|David Harris speaks with Azerbaijan news agency|
(Interview of the Executive Director American Jewish Committee with Turan)
Question: Please share your thoughts on what’s currently going on between Israel and Gaza.
Answer: Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s going on. Hamas, which rules Gaza and is defined as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, has aggressively fired hundreds of missiles at Israel this year alone, and thousands in recent years.
Like any country, Israel could not tolerate this situation any longer. Israel is compelled to protect its citizens, which is precisely what it is seeking to do right now. The aim is to end the missile attacks against Israel that have killed, wounded, closed schools and disrupted daily life.
What is the goal of Hamas? One of its leaders was quoted in the media. He said: “The war will not end until the liberation of Palestine.” In other words, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s very right to exist, something that is repeatedly highlighted in the Hamas Charter, and seeks the annihilation of the Jewish state.
Question: Could predictable statements of protest, and possible actions, by some Islamic countries against Israel prove harmful?
Answer: Interestingly, some Islamic countries have been quiet. That is because they reject Hamas and what it stands for – religious fundamentalism, political tyranny, and jihadist violence. On the other hand, certain other nations have regrettably given encouragement to Hamas. These include Qatar and Turkey. No doubt, Hamas felt emboldened at this time to strike Israel, believing it had more support than ever, especially from Ankara and Doha, but also from certain other countries where political Islam is on the ascendancy.
Question: Are you satisfied with the reaction of the UN to these events?
Answer: We are grateful to those nations that have spoken out with moral clarity in recognizing the true nature of this conflict.
Israel left Gaza in 2005, giving local residents the chance to govern themselves. Within two years, though, Hamas was in full control and decided that seeking to destroy Israel was a worthier goal than building Gaza.
Israel, on the other hand, has only one objective – quiet on its border with Gaza.
Thus, we commend the President of the United States, Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada and United Kingdom, and Chancellor of Germany, among other world leaders, for their support of Israel, the victim nation in this conflict, and condemnation of Hamas, the aggressor.
Regarding the UN, that is a different story. With 22 members of the Arab League and 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, now chaired by Iran, a country which calls for a world without Israel, Jerusalem has no hope of a fair hearing. There is an automatic majority against it. Too often in the UN, politics prevails over principle, often at the expense of human lives. This is one such egregious example. That is why we do not expect to see much helpful input from the world body as this crisis unfolds.
Question: What reaction do you expect from Azerbaijan to the current dramatic situation?
Answer: At heart, I am sure, Azerbaijan understands this conflict very well. Baku has excellent ties with Jerusalem and knows the region well. It also recognizes the nature of Hamas, which is directly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, believes in the rule of Shari’a law, and advocates violence in the name of religion. Moreover, Hamas is armed by Iran, the very same Iran that neighbors Azerbaijan and has tried to interfere more than once in Azerbaijan’s internal affairs.
Question: Recently, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, once again supported Palestinian aspirations to establish a sovereign and independent state. Does this harm Azerbaijan-Israel relations?
Answer: Azerbaijan supports a two-state agreement – the Jewish state of Israel and the state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security. That vision is shared by most Israelis, including the last four prime ministers, not to mention the United States, the European Union and my own organization, AJC.
Unfortunately, it has proved impossible so far to turn vision into reality. Without a Palestinian leadership willing to negotiate a durable two-state deal and an end to the conflict, and, yes, capable of exercising control over both the West Bank and Gaza, progress cannot be achieved.
Meanwhile, bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Israel continue to grow and prosper, to the benefit of both countries.