Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer asserted today that “no other military in history” has displayed as much restraint in seeking to avoid civilian casualties as the Israel Defense Forces.
In a telephone press conference Friday morning arranged by The Israel Project, Dermer described how Israel seeks to warn civilians in Gaza by leaflets, telephone and text messages in advance of bomb attacks. He attributed the fact that dozens of civilians have been killed in the current fighting to Hamas leaders. He said they purposefully embed themselves and their rocket factories in heavily populated areas, including schools, hospitals and mosques.
He added that the Hamas interior ministry has urged civilians to ignore Israel’s warnings.
“They don’t care if we kill civilians,” he said, noting that while Israel considers attacks that lead to the death of innocent Gazans as “operational failures,” Hamas views them as a path toward victory, spurring the international community to call for a halt in the fighting.
Dermer said it was a mistake to compare the “body count on both sides as a barometer of justice,” emphasizing that it is intention that counts. “Hamas fires rockets indiscriminately and hopes to kill as many Israelis as possible. For Israel it is the exact opposite,” he said. “We go to great lengths to keep out of harm’s way” and will cancel an operation “even at the last second” to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
According to Dermer, the Iron Dome system that engages and destroys enemy rockets, is operating at an even higher success rate than it did in 2012 when it was last employed in fighting with Hamas. The success rate at that time was 84 percent, he said.
There are eight Iron Dome battery systems in Israel and he explained that only those enemy rockets targeted to land in populated areas are engaged; those seen as landing in open spaces are ignored.
Dermer also pointed out that an additional aspect of the Iron Dome’s value is that it has given Israel “the time and space to calibrate our response,” allowing Israel to use its military options in a more deliberate manner, resulting in fewer civilian casualties.
Dermer, a Florida native who has long been a close aide to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, praised President Obama and Congress for supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. He said there was a “deep understanding” that when three-fourths of a country’s population has been forced to flee to bomb shelters in the face of more than 500 rockets, as in Israel’s, one must do what is necessary to protect the citizenry.
“Every nation has a right to quiet,” Dermer said,“ and Prime Minister Netanyahu will do what he has to do to restore quiet. He added that Netanyahu has said that no amount of international pressure will prevent Israel from achieving its objective, though he did not define that objective in specific terms.