LONDON - Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal met on Thursday with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, as well as others including British MPs as part of his four-day visit to the United Kingdom. Moyal is on a mission to improve Israel's image abroad and to raise awareness for the constant rocket barrages from Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip that his town faces on daily basis.
In a conversation with Ynet, Moyal said that despite the fact that the British government was overall supportive of Israel, Israeli public relations needed significant improvement in the country.
The Sderot mayor was interviewed by a number of local media outlets. In one such interview, Moyal was asked what he had requested from Defense Minister Ehud Barak in order to agree to rescind his resignation and return to his post as mayor of Sderot. He responded that: "I asked for protection and quiet…if you can't achieve the quiet by talking...there is another option if there is no other way to achieve it.
"We prefer talking…having dialogue with our enemy but if someone is about to kill you for seven years you have the right to protect yourself.
When he was asked if he was in favor of reoccupying Gaza, Moyal replied firmly: "No, I am against it because the moment we reoccupy the Gaza strip, the Americans and Europeans will ask us to leave and it will repeat itself all over again and again. That's why I am against it.
"Between you and me why they are shooting?" Moyal asked. "Please, why they are shooting? We withdrew from the Gaza Strip, there isn't a military base in Sderot. There are no soldiers in Sderot. They are shooting to kill innocent people."
Moyal also said that his worst fear is that one day a Qassam will land on a kindergarten and kill 20 children.
The mayor participated in an event in front of the British Parliament aimed at raising awareness for what Sderot residents are currently undergoing.
Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor as well as a delegation from the Israeli embassy and dozens of Jewish students took part. They handed out red balloons with the phrase Red Dawn (the former name for the rocket warning system in Sderot) to passersby.
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal in London (Photo: Or Rabinovich)
The Israeli mayor met with British MPs and was also invited to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's office. Miliband expressed his identification with Sderot residents and said he hopes that the joint interests of Sderot and Gaza residents would manage to tip the scales in favor of a political settlement.
Moyal said he left his meetings with British officials feeling encouraged, but said that he was displeased that overriding public opinion is not in Israel's favor in Britain. He added that the Israeli government should quickly allocate more resources to improving public relations abroad.
According to Moyal, "Despite the fact that the new ambassador in London is doing excellent PR work since he took the job a few months ago, the PR issue is in need of a lot of improvement. It's not possible that (after we) left Gaza, removed settlements and the army and created a deep fissure within the nation to do so in order to make peace, London still treats us as if we're murdering Palestinians…"
Lior Ben-David, a spokesperson from the Israeli embassy, in London responded to Moyal's comments saying: "The untenable condition that Sderot residents are living through is at the top of the list of priorities at the embassy.
"We're carrying out a PR struggle on all fronts and under difficult circumstances in order to present to the British public the hardships and suffering that the town residents are experiencing."