President Simon Peres said in an interview with the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that "Israel will take all measures needed to stop the rocket fire. We won't enter Gaza. There are other means – we did not leave Gaza to return there."
In the interview, published Saturday, the president said Hamas was directly responsible for the crisis in Gaza and the "suffering" of the Palestinians there.
"The problem is Hamas wants to do in the West Bank what it did in Gaza and carry out another coup; this is what frightens the Israelis," he said, "without Hamas there would have been a Palestinian state by now."
Peres predicted that the situation in the Middle East will be vastly different in three years' time, since, according to him, the region will "take a turn towards peace."
The president further told al-Sharq al-Awsat that he did not foresee the establishment of a right-wing government in Israel under Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The Israeli public wants peace, if it is convinced that the other side wants is as well," he said. "Israel has fought against the Arabs in seven wars, and that is enough. How much longer can we fight?"
Turning his attention to the Saudi peace initiative, the president said it could serve as the basis for the negotiations between Israel and the Arab world.
According to the initiative, which was adopted at the annual Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, a comprehensive peace will be established between Israel and the Arab states, including full diplomatic ties, in exchange for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all the "Occupied Territories" including the Golan Heights, and the recognition of "an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital," as well as a "just solution" for the Palestinian refugees.