In an interview with Ynet Thursday Justice Minister Haim Ramon said, “Firing 40 Qassams a day on Sderot and trying to intentionally kill civilians is a war crime.”
“Accidents during battle happen to every superpower that is engaged in the war on terror; it happened in London, in Spain, it is happening in the United States – it happens everywhere,” he said.
“Regretfully, in the war on terror there are some innocent people are killed unintentionally.”
Commenting on the international criticism regarding the civilian deaths during IDF strikes aimed at terrorists in Gaza, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas referred to as ‘war crimes,’ Ramon said “these incidents that may be deemed war crimes by the international community can be easily avoided if Israel ceases to be a target of daily terror emanating from the Gaza Strip; and this is taking place after Israel withdrew from the entire Strip and evacuated 8,000 Israelis from the area.”
"What we're doing is self defense," Ramon said. "Contrary to the Palestinian terror, we try not to hurt civilians. The situation with them is completely different. Their aim is to target our civilian population in Sderot and the near-Gaza communities."
"The struggle we are conducting against them is very specific – against those terrorists. Unfortunately we also harm innocent people and this pains us. Our war is not with the Palestinian population," he stated. Ramon also called on the Palestinian to renounce the terrorists in order to prevent further casualties.
'No return to 1967 borders'
Referring to the possibility Israel would move the separation fence's route westward, back to the 1967 borders, the justice minister stressed this is not a viable option.
"The prime minister made it clear we will never return to the 1967 borders. The prime minister's statement on the one hand, and (Palestinian President) Abbas' declaration that the Palestinians would settle for no less than the '67 borders – illustrate how difficult it is to come to a permanent peace agreement," Ramon said.
"I am not aware of any private conversations Defense Minister Amir Peretz has held regarding a removal of the security fence back to the 1967 borders," he added.
Ramon stated that the fence is not only intended to protect the residents inside the Green Line. "The current route includes within it some 150,000 Israelis who live outside the Green Line. They will eventually be moved to the settlement blocs. At the end of the day we consider them to be Israel's residents. I don't see us conceding Ariel, Alfei Mensahe or Maale Adumim," the minister declared.
"Eventually the fence will include very few Palestinians, 2,000 to 3,000 Palestinians in total. This despite the fact Israel will annex eight to nine percent of the West Bank's territory. I believe that this is the best fence for the State of Israel," he said.
'World will accept realignment'
Asked whether he believes that the realignment plan would materialize, despite the international community and the Arab world's objection, the justice minister said: "I suggest you listen carefully to what is being said in the world. The world says it wants negotiations to take place, based on the international community's prerequisites and the Road Mao peace plan."
"The Israeli government and the prime minister believe there is not much chance for this to happen. The Palestinians do not accept the international community's demands. The question that remains open is whether we will stay in the territories forever," Ramon said.
"I think that the world will eventually accept the realignment plan. If it sees that the status-quo leads to bloodshed, it will come to see it as the only alternative for this impossible reality. Overall, the world wants us to evacuate settlements and pull out of the territories, and this is essentially what the realignment calls for. I believe that the United States will ultimately accept this plan, like it has accepted (former Prime Minister) Sharon's disengagement plan," he stated.
'No better alternative'
"The consolidation into settlement blocs is based on President Bush's letter from April 2004. I am convinced that at the end we will establish cooperation with the international community and the US, and with Abbas in particular, regarding the realignment," the minister added.
According to Ramon, there is no better alternative: "I consider the realignment a life-saving operation for Israel as a democratic, Jewish state. If we wait another 20, 30 years, the situation will be much more difficult. Operations come with risks, the problems are serious, but the alternative is much worse," Ramon concluded.
Aviram Zino contributed to the report