Israel Would Lift Blockade if Gaza Turned to Peace, Peres Says

The Israeli president says does not understand, why after evacuating Gaza, its rulers chose to fire thousands of missiles against Israeli civilians.

Israel would lift the blockade on Gaza if the rules of the Hamas-controlled strip would prove they are interested in peace and halt all terror activities, President Shimon Peres said on Sunday.

Itzik Ben-Malkhi

Addressing the Jewish Agency Assembly in Jerusalem, Peres said that Gaza militants have continued attacking Israel despite the fact that it had withdrew from the coastal enclave, saying that "there is no Israeli left in the Gaza strip.

"We did not understand then, nor do we understand now, why after evacuating Gaza, its rulers started to fire thousands of missiles against our civilians. For what reason? For what purpose?," Peres Asked, adding that he felt the "question remains unanswered today."

The Israeli president added that "would Gaza agree to peace, to negotiations, to denounce terror, to stop the building of tunnels, to halt the shooting of missiles, to cease the attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers, and to release the abducted Gilad Shalit, there would be no closure or blockade," saying that if indeed Gaza turned toward peace, "it would have peace, and there would be no need for flotillas.

In his address, Peres underlined what he called Israel's "commitment to peace," saying that "during the Oslo negotiations, Israel agreed to the two-state solution, a Palestinian state living alongside a Jewish state."

"We felt then, as we feel today, that for the two of us to live side by side in peace is right and better than living one inside the other in an incurable conflict, Peres said.

The President also commented on what he saw as attempts by radical groups to delegitimize Israel, saying that "delegitimizing Israel means to legitimize, directly or indirectly, lawless terror organizations like Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, as well as their supporters, including dictatorial regimes that kill their own people with no regard or respect. Our efforts for peace will not and should not diminish."

"They emanate neither from pressure nor from submission, but rather from ethical convictions and strategic interests, Peres said.