(Communicated by the Office of the President)
President Shimon Peres, this evening (Tuesday, 20 November 2012), at his residence in Jerusalem, met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General is holding a series of meetings with regional leaders in light of the current security situation. President Peres thanked the Secretary-General for coming and said, "Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for coming. Your contribution as a heavyweight is appreciated and can help to bring calm to the situation."
President Peres stressed that, "The problem is not just the height of the flames but who starts them and who can end them. There is no room for comparison between Israel and Hamas. Unfortunately they target civilians, we protect them. They hide amongst their civilian population, we are extremely careful to avoid hitting all civilians. Our army is working hard to avoid harming civilians.
Israel left Gaza willingly and totally. Nobody forced us. Hamas is the only one responsible for the suffering in Gaza. Hamas can put an end to it. They can bring calm to their people when they stop shooting. Israel did not start this situation but Israel, like any other country, cannot allow her citizens to become a target. It is against the charter of the UN and basic human responsibility. They are targeting our children on their way to school. Most of the missiles are fired between 07:00 and 08:00, around 35 every day, when the children are on the way to school. They then start again between 13:00 and 14:00 in the afternoon, when another 35 rockets a day are fired at the children on their way home."
President Peres addressed the support of the international community and said, "There is no member of the United Nations, nor the United Nations itself, that can allow 1300 rockets to be aimed at their civilians; women and children. The leaders of the world must insist that Hamas stop the fire and must make clear that terror is unacceptable."
President Peres added that the only way to achieve peace was through negotiations and said, "Our strength is aimed at defending our civilian life. We would prefer for this to happen by talking and without shooting. But otherwise we shall to do what we can to stop it. We are a nation that seeks peace and have agreed to the two state solution, this is our policy. Hamas rejects this completely; they reject negotiations and Israel's right to exit. Peace can be attained only through direct negotiations."
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said to President Peres, "Mr. President you have been a man of peace all your life, I count on your wisdom to help restore calm and seek the peace which we all want. That is the only way to bring lasting security to all. I'm here to offer my help to end the violence and find a path back towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Our paramount and immediate concern is for the safety and wellbeing of all civilians in Israel and in Gaza. Innocent people including children have been killed and injured on both sides. I once again appeal to all those commanding and operating weapons to respect international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times."
The Secretary-General spoke about the diplomatic efforts and said, "Over the past week I have spoken to many international and regional leaders by telephone and in person, which is why I am here. I came directly from Cairo where I met with the Arab League Secretary-General and the Egyptian Prime Minister. Egypt is a leader in the region and I was encouraged that Egyptian authorities are using their contacts on all sides to seek an immediate ceasefire. I've also met with the Israeli leadership since arriving in Jerusalem a few hours ago. I'll be meeting President Abbas and Egyptian President Morsi tomorrow.
Regrettably I'm back in the region only nine months after my last visit because violence in Israel and Gaza is again grabbing our attention, not progress towards a lasting peace and the two state solution. The world is concerned, gravely concerned at the rising cost of human lives. Further escalation would be dangerous and tragic for Palestinians and Israelis and would put the entire region at risk. I'm here to appeal to all to halt fire and restore calm immediately."
He concluded by saying that, "Rockets have hit just outside Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and Israeli towns just outside Gaza, killing and injuring civilians. This is unacceptable, irresponsible and reckless. I strongly condemn these actions. Rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israel must cease immediately. I know how difficult the situation is but Israel must exercise maximum restraint, I've strongly cautioned Israel's leaders about launching a ground operation, which will only result in further tragedy. I have also stressed that while Israel directs at military targets inside Gaza they kill and injure civilians and damage civilian infrastructure. The loss of civilian life is unacceptable under any circumstances." After the joint statements to the Israeli and international media, the two conducted a private meeting and a wider working meeting over dinner with their senior staff.