Following the brutal attack on Israel by Hamas last weekend, GEORGIA TODAY had the honor to sit down with Israeli Ambassador to Georgia, Hadas Ester Meitzad, to discuss the atrocities and Israeli spirit at this difficult time.
“We’re at war” – Prime Minister Netanyahu said. What are the goals of Israel at this point and what can we expect after the conflict?
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his statement, I believe, was very clear when he said that we’re going to work to eliminate the military and terrorist capabilities of the terrorist organization Hamas, to restore security to our civilians, and to ensure that a very clear and strong message will be delivered not just to Hamas or to the Islamic Jihad who are working from the Gaza Strip, but to all terrorist organizations all over the world that any event of this kind, any attack on Israelis, will never be left unanswered.
Iran-backed Hezbollah shows support to those who killed hundreds of innocent people in Israel. Is Israel ready to fight on several fronts?
Israel is ready to do whatever it takes. We are telling everyone, do not underestimate us. What we have experienced since Saturday are very difficult days, extremally difficult, especially because we are facing such evil brutality; barbarity that nobody should ever experience. But, at the same time, Israel is strong, Israel is united, and nobody should underestimate us or try to test us. In addition, we have the very strong support of the United States of America and its President Joe Biden, who was very clear in his statement about what the US’s response will be in case of any attempt to escalate the situation. And we had the very strong statement from the Quint, the leaders of the Quint, the UK, France, Germany, United States and Italy, in which they expressed full support to Israel’s legitimacy in its right to defend its people.
Instead of condemning the Palestinian militant group, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov referred to what happened on October 7 as a “spiral of violence”. What is your reaction to that?
It’s a disappointing comment at the end of the day. Hamas is a terrorist organization and it’s a well-known fact. We’ve all seen the pictures of what they’ve done. Let’s drill down a minute about what has taken place since Saturday: We’re seeing two dimensions of this attack. One is the firing of missiles and rockets on cities in south and central Israel, millions of people unable to carry on an ordinary life. Just a few days ago we saw a massive attack that took place during the afternoon and evening on all the major cities, including Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, a mosque was hit. Israel is a mixed country, and 20% of the Israeli population are ethnic Arabs. And Hamas targeted them a few days ago. The second thing that we have seen is one of the cruelest, if not the most brutal attack, on civilians that the world has ever seen. People in their twenties, celebrating at a music festival – an everyday event that happens everywhere around the world, including Georgia. And on October 7, terrorists armed with automatic weapons butchered boys and girls, men and women who were trying to escape and find shelter. It was slaughter, pure and simple.
At the same time, hundreds of terrorists walked from house to house in small communities of Kibbutz and small settlements located close to the Gaza Strip, murdering, among them parents who hid their ten-month-old twins in the closet. The children were not discovered, but they spent 14 hours all alone. Just imagine, 10-month-old babies left for 14 hours. And they were the “lucky” ones, because others were found and slaughtered. We’re seeing pictures of people that were taken to Gaza, the body of a young woman brutalized in the streets of Gaza while people cheered. We’re seeing babies in the captivity of a terrorist organization. Babies, toddlers, I mean, I have a young daughter… The images are unbearable.
In short, anybody at this point in time who is unable to condemn Hamas for being what it is- a terrorist organization; to understand that there is no difference between Hamas and Daesh, they are exactly the same: a radical, fanatic, barbaric organization that will stop at nothing in order to murder my people for the sake of some ideology that nobody supports but crazy people, then such people need to check which side of history and morality they are on today.
The terrorist attacks on the Jewish community in Egypt raised questions as to whether the Israeli people who live abroad are safe or not. What would you say to that?
Generally speaking, unfortunately, Israelis are considered to be targets around the world. We have a very bloody history of Israelis, official and unofficial, being targeted by terrorist organizations. Iran and a whole branch under the Iran Revolutionary Guard is focusing on executing terrorist attacks against Israeli targets all over the world, including in Georgia, by the way. This is very sad to say and to acknowledge. All Israelis know that extra caution is needed in times of escalation, in a situation like this. And, generally speaking, people should be more alert and aware of the fact that there are those who continue to harm and to kill us for the sake of fanatical ideology.
What was it like for you as a person, as a mother and a friend, as an Israeli who lives so far from her home, to hear about this horrific act of terrorism?
It’s difficult, very difficult, because it’s all very personal. Israel, like Georgia, has a very warm society. We all know one another. All of us are have been hearing the names of friends and acquittances who lost their lives, be they innocent civilians or part of the security forces, IDF or the police forces, those at the front line when everything started. It’s not just about being a parent; anyone who has a heart can’t be indifferent to what we are seeing. It took me quite some time to find out what it is that they feel, and I think that the feeling is disgust, because this brutality, the cruelty shown in nine-months-old and four-years-old brothers being taken to Gaza, is disgusting.
Does it even matter, how old they are?
You’re right! They are all children, but we simply cannot understand how can they deliberately go after children, after elderly women. You know, there are very disturbing images of what they are doing to them. And the scale of loss, to lose 1000 people in a country of such a small size is very difficult for us to mentally overcome.
People should understand that Israel is still very strong, however, still very united, and what we are seeing today is a mobilization of entire society to support the communities and security forces. There are hours-long lines of people wanting to donate blood. Yes, we are targeted by rockets and missiles, but people are still going to work and doing what needs to be done for the economy to function. We are all human, compassionate. The sights are horrible, but it doesn’t mean that we have fallen apart. We’re very far from it, and we are determined to restore what needs to be restored.
Messages of condolence from the political leaders, and thousands of social media posts of Georgians showing support to Israel, were followed by the Tbilisi TV tower and Batumi Adjarabet Stadium being illuminated in the colors of the Israel flag. Is there anything else the people of Georgia can do for Israel?
First of all, I want to say thank you so much for the overwhelming amount of support that we’re receiving, and I keep on seeing Israeli flags, not just here and in Batumi, but also in different streets throughout Tbilisi, and people posting Israeli flags on social media. I’m thankful for it. Besides that, from the government’s side and from the parliament’s side, we received messages of support and this is very important for us, we appreciate it. I don’t think this is going to be a short war. We don’t know how long it will last, but we are prepared for as long as it takes, and we will need Georgia to keep on standing by Israel and not forget what has been happening here and how it all started on a Saturday morning, 6:30am, with a massive invasion of terrorists coming to slaughter people in Israel together with widespread indiscriminate use of massive firepower on Israeli’s cities. We need Georgia to keep standing by Israel and not to be confused and not to try to make it into a two-side story – There are no two-side stories.
Is any humanitarian aid needed at the moment?
No. Israel is a strong and rich country. I know that there are a lot of people all over the world who are donating, and it’s lovely, and it happens because people want to do something to show support and solidarity, but there is no official appeal. Israel is capable of taking care of all its needs.
Unlike most Georgians, some consider Hamas not as a terrorist organization but as a liberation force. What would be your message to them?
My message to those people is that they are either brainwashed, confused or antisemitic. If someone is condemning Daesh for killing people in Paris, or the removing of heads of British and American journalists, but is trying to justify and give context to the same kind of slaughter that is happening just because the victim is Israeli or Jewish, because of another nationality or religion, then this is pure antisemitism or anti-Israel belief.
I want to point out that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people; Hamas is not aspiring to or advocating for a two-state solution. On the contrary, Hamas is advocating the total destruction of Israel. The agenda of Hamas is the elimination of the state of Israel, elimination of the Zionist Jewish entity. If someone, after witnessing what has been taking place since Saturday in Israel, is still unable to condemn that, such a person can no longer claim to be part of the civilized world or part of the fight against terrorism. If somebody wants to support terrorism, I’d advise them to acknowledge what they are standing for – if you stand for Hamas, Daesh, Al Qaeda, you stand for terrorism.
What would your message be for the people of Georgia, for those Israelis who live in Georgia?
My message to the Georgians is thank you for supporting and standing by us! To our Israeli community, well, we’re in close regular contact, and we’re sharing the same pain watching our country in that situation while being so far from home. There is no doubt that there will be scars, but we’re strong, we’re together, and we will overcome!