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Operation Cast Lead: World Leaders Side With Israeli Response to Hamas Terror

(January 2009)

While much of the Arab world and Iran predictably condemned Israel for its military response to three years of rocket attacks on its civilian population, most world leaders recognized that Hamas provoked Israel's action and that Israeli leaders reacted the way each of them would have if faced with similar threats.

Following Israel’s announcement of a cease-fire, an unprecedented (other than for Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral) delegation of European heads of state flew to Jerusalem on January 18, 2009, and pledged to work to prevent Hamas from rearming. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, offered to provide troops and technological assistance to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and terrorists into Gaza, in cooperation with Egypt and the United States.

The United States was one of the first to express support and understanding of Israel's operation in Gaza. On December 29, 2008, the White House Deputy Press Secretary said that “Israel is responding to a barrage of rocket and mortar attacks that increased substantially last week, following Hamas's refusal to renew the ceasefire. Israel has made clear that they do not want to retake Gaza, that they simply want the people of southern Israel to be able to live in peace, free from this barrage of rocket attacks.”

United States officials, including President-elect Barack Obama, have often stated that Israel should be allowed to defend itself against the constant rocket attacks delivered by Hamas each day. The Bush Administration has made it clear that, if placed in the same situation with its neighbors, the United States would attack.

Bush's spokesperson said Hamas is choosing to be a terrorist organization and to perpetuate violence by attacking innocent Israeli civilians. He maintained that Hamas must choose to end their violent campaign and recognize Israel's right to exist.

Similarly, Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, personally spoke to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and voiced her support for Israel's “legitimate right” to defend itself. Merkel blamed Hamas for the current Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Although the European Union has officially called for a ceasefire, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg supported Israel's operation against Hamas. Schwarzenberg seemed baffled as to why the rest of the EU is not defending Israel in the current situation. He stated that he is “enjoying the luxury of telling the truth.” Schwarzenberg will become the next EU President in January.

Perhaps the most surprising defenders of the Israeli offensive are PA, PLO and Fatah leaders. While PA President Mahmoud Abbas insists that Israel must cease its airstrikes on Gaza, he also suggests that Hamas is truly to blame in this situation. Hamas allowed the official ceasefire to lapse without renewing it and, despite fair warnings from the Israeli government in the week leading up to the operation, did not prepare itself for a possible incursion by the IDF.

Abbas's advisor, Nimr Hammad, stated that “The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles.” The firing of missiles into Israel's southern towns, the PA maintains, is a typically reckless move by Hamas who does not understand the consequences of their actions. Hamas's daily terror attacks prohibit any peace negotiations and possible two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority media have also criticized Hamas claiming that the organization is in the grips of “megalomania” in which Hamas sees itself as a superpower with the strength of the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon.

Egypt has also supported the Israeli action by its refusal to aid Hamas.

Rather than condemn Israel for legitimately defending itself, other Arab states could make a contribution to peace if they were to pressure Hamas to cease its missile launches into Israel.

No other country would have tolerated attacks on its population for as long as Israel endured them. Until Israel can guarantee the security of its own citizens, most of the world understands that Israel has every right to continue its operation.

Sources: The White House, Der-Spiegel, MEMRI