Hadas Meitzad- We are having two frontlines at the moment, there is a possibility of the expansion of the war

Israel's ambassador to Georgia, Hadas Meitzad, states that the war between Israel and Hamas can end at any time, but it is necessary for Hamas to release all hostages. The diplomat also does not rule out that the area of ​​the conflict may expand and spread to other countries of the Middle East.

How does Israel respond to the criticism of its allies regarding the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, as well as how Israel evaluates the visit of the Prime Minister of Georgia to Iran, what are recomendations to the Georgian authorities and the opposition- Israeli Ambassador to Georgia Hadas Meitzad spoke in an exclusive interview with "Interpressnews".

How would you assess the events taking place in Georgia in recent weeks, what is Israel's official position regarding the law "on transparency of foreign influence". Do you share the position of the part of society that sees it as a threat to democracy? Do you agree with the position of the Georgian government, which considers that the adoption of the law is necessary to increase transparency in the country, while our Western partners claim that the law is incompatible with European values.

Thank you very much for the interview. We are friends of the Georgian people, all the Georgian people. It's genuinely painful to see the discord and the division that has been happening here over the last few weeks, months. I'm coming from a country where internal disputes or heated disagreements is not something foreign to us. Also in Israel, we often have different parts of the society very much divided over a policy matter or over legislation. I do hope that a way will be found for Georgia to fulfill its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, because to the best of my knowledge, it's an inspiration or a dream that is shared by a vast majority of the population here.

Last year, Georgia received the status of a candidate country for the European Union and has an actual chance to become a member of the European Union in the coming years. Leaders of Western countries, ministers of foreign affairs and members of European Parliament often note that the law "on the transparency of foreign influence" will hinder or even stop the country's European aspirations. Do you think there is a chance for Georgia to deviate from the European orbit, and what possible consequences can these bring to the country?

I'm sorry, but as a country who is not a member of the EU. It is not for me to answer on their behalf.

On October 26 Parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia. There has been a difficult political situation in the country for years, where the main pre-election messages of the parties are mainly limited to criticizing their opponents. What do you think should be done in the country in order to process the elections in a peaceful and democratic environment? What are your advices to the representatives of the government and the opposition parties of Georgia

I think that for every democratic country, election is one of the most important days. I think that if you're interested in influencing your country’s, your state’s, present and future, voting is a leading way of doing so. At the end of the day, democratic countries are not only about elections, but definitely a big weight of what defines us as a democratic states is the election, the day when the will of the people should be reflected in a very clear way. If you want to change something, vote. Or if you want to keep something as it is, vote.

And to answer your question about the advices regarding the general atmosphere, well, because we are getting closer to election period, usually the stakes are higher. I think we can see it all over the world. To change the how politics being performed, I think that this is a little bit above my pay grade.

On May 22, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ilia Darchiashvili attended the funeral service of Iran’s late President Ebrahim Raisi and seven other officials. The visit of the Prime Minister of Georgia to Iran was criticized by a part of the society. How fair do you think this criticism is, considering that Georgia has diplomatic and partnership relations with Iran?

Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran) were two people who have a lot of blood on their hands: Israeli, Jewish, Western, Middle Eastern. These two individuals President and Foreign Minister have been the ones shaping, coming up with a policy and to deliver the execution of establishing, creating, financing, equipment, training, brutal terror organization all through the Middle East. As patrons of Hamas, they carry direct responsibility to the acts of genocide that was carried out by Hamas on October 7, because if it is them who equip Hamas with the weapons and train them how to use them, then they are part of it. Raisi's nickname in Tehran by his so-called own people is “the Butcher from Tehran”. This is the man that we are talking about. Of course, we cannot overlook the past attempts by Iran to carry out a terror attacks on Georgian soil. We have seen who attended it, we have seen the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah. It took me by surprise to see the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Georgia attending this event. It was surprising.

The Gaza Strip has been one of the most tense conflictual regions in the world for several months now. At least 35,000 people have been killed in the war, including 7,800 children and 5,000 women. What is Israel's plan to resolve the bloody conflict, when and with what result should we expect the end of the conflict, and do you think there is the possibility the war grow into a global conflict, where Iran and other countries of the region will be involved?

The war can be over, can be ended tomorrow morning. In order for this to happen, we need Hamas to release all the hostages. They kidnapped around 250 people. They are still holding 128 hostages. They need to release all the hostages and they need to release the Gaza Strip from their iron grip. This is what needs to happen. When people are calling for ceasefire, you want ceasefire - tell it to Hamas and its supporters to release all the hostages and to dismantle themselves to surrender.

We cannot have a terror regime of Hamas controlling the Gaza strip, posing threat to Israel as well as to the people of Gaza.

Earlier this week, we released a footage, a horrible footage. It shows the moment of the kidnapping of five young soldiers. It's horrible. Five 19 years old women, Karin, Liri, Agam, Naama and Daniella sitting, covered with blood, their blood or the blood of their friends that were just murdered, surrounded by Hamas terrorists who are treating them like commodities: “Oh, you're very beautiful. Oh, you're this”. At some point, some of them were saying, “this one can get pregnant”. This footage was released by the families of five hostages. In order to show the world exactly what took place and how. The footage is 3 minutes long, they have been like this for more than230 days. Five young women in the hands of Hamas.

This week earlier we had our Independence Day event in Tbilisi. It was attended by the children of Gadi Moses whose being held in Gaza. Gadi is 80 years old. The last time they heard, they received any sign of life from him is back in December. In June, it will be eight months from October 7. I advise again for those who wish to see the end of the war to watch the footage and to read Mozes’s kids testimonies and to join the call to release all the hostages. Now, as for the situation on the ground, Rafah, the city of Rafah is where Hamas still has a very strong hold, and we are starting to operate there. It's a very slow operation because at the same time, while operating, we're taking all measure needed in order to ensure that the population is receiving what it's needed, including to evacuate them to save them. This is what we've been doing since the beginning of the war.

Now, I want to get to what you're asking about the numbers. It's a war and every civilian casualty, it's a tragedy. In Israel, we have been losing, unfortunately, quite a large number of our soldiers who have died from what we call “friendly fire” meaning their death is a result of miscommunication that ends up with Israel soldiers accidently killing other soldiers, There was a horrific tragedy with the three hostages that managed to escape, and then they were misidentified and killed. The suffering of a war is felt all over and I am sharing this to explain that war is, sadly, not an organized sterile environment but a complicated battle zone. You mentioned the numbers, and the numbers that you've been using, they have been reduced by half. Because three weeks ago, the UN suddenly, quietly, quietly, has changed its estimation and cut by half the estimation of numbers of casualties. Why is it important? Because we have been saying since the beginning of the war, one, do not use Gaza ministry of health numbers because this is Hamas.

And second, the one that Israel in targeting in this war are Hamas terrorists, and this are also the majority of the people who died.

More than a half a million of ton of humanitarian aid has been entering Gaza since the beginning of war. We are doing everything that we are obliged by the international law and even more in order to avoid casualties to the human population and to ensure that there are no shortage there.

I think that at the end of the day, we need the hostages to be released. We need everyone to remember that this war started with a killing of 1,200 Israelis on one day. It's about ensuring that Hamas will not be in a position to do it again and to continue endanger its own people.

About the expansion of the war, there is a possibility. We are having two fronts at the moment. We have the Gaza war, and we also have another front in the north. I don't know to what extent it's being covered here, but on a daily basis, we have Hezbollah targeting the towns and the villages of the north of Israel. Around 100,000 of Israeli citizens are living in a temporary residence. They have been evacuated from their homes. They cannot go back because they will be targeted by Hezbollah, who is, of course, making zero distinction between civilians and soldiers. if we are to look at the broader picture, it goes back to Iran. There is one country who is supporting, sponsoring and training terrorist groups, who's behind is one every attempt to destabilize in the Middle East, it is Iran.

What can be done to pressure Hezbollah to move away, to go back north to the Litani River? Back in 2006, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 clearly stated that the whole area, south to the Litani River and what we call the Blue Line (it is called Blue Line, because we don't have agreed border between Israel and Lebanon) should be free of any weapons, of any armed presence, aside from the legit army of the Lebanese state. What we have, in fact, is we have all this all area filled with Hezbollah combatants and their arms. What needs to be done? There need to be an international pressure for the UNSC resolution to be fully implemented. Generally speaking I hope for the future of Lebanon that Hezbollah will no longer control their state

Israel is often criticized by its main supporters and partners. They call on the country for peace. To what extent is Israel going to take their opinion into account and whether Israel can strain its relations with its partners because of the ongoing war?

The best way to describe our relationship with the United States is as family relations. You have an arguments in family. I'm looking at two things. First of all, the frequent visits of USA officials. We just had the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. Every time that they are coming, they're meeting with the Prime Minister and the rest of the relevant ministers . they are sitting and discussing the different operations and the plans ahead , because the American opinion is extremely important. At the same time, Israel is a sovereign state with defined goals of this war, this war is being fought by Israelis to remove I'm going back to the Moses family that were here this week. The distance between the kibbutz and the fence of Gaza is one and a half kilometer. This is how close everything is in Israel. Like in Georgia, everything is so close. It's not somewhere in the distance.

But the The United States is standing very strong in its supports in Israel. So yes, there can be critiques and questions being asked, and it's our job to answer them. But if you look at the broader picture, if you look at the statement coming from President Biden, I think that everybody who was trying to present it as if the United States is not supporting Israel, is in a bit trying to manipulate the facts. Also, the leading European countries, are standing very strong supporting Israel as well. Again, it's not because of the likeness of war. It's because of the understanding that on the other side, there is a radical terrorist group that cannot continue to exist as it is.

What is your position about the recognition of Palestine as independent state by some European countries

Earlier this week, Spain, Norway, and Ireland announced that they are recognizing the a Palestinian state. I think it's an empty and hollow gesture that can only harm the situation. I'm going to explain why. I read the interviews of the foreign minister. I read everything that they said regarding their declaration. I think that if they really wanted to change something on the ground, then they should have at least condition their declaration, this recognition, with a demand for immediate to release the hostages. they could have said we will recognize, but we need to see Mahmoud Abbas the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, denouncing the massacre of October 7 and declaring that he will not cooperate with Hamas, a designated terror organization in Europe. And when you don't hear any of it, where all they were saying is, „we are recognizing“, and they believe that. this will somehow pave the way for a better future for both nations, it remains a hollow gesture. If you want to support the Palestinian people, if you want to ensure that we will have one day, again, trust and ability to go back to discus a joint future , you need to be very clear with the Palestinian authority, with the PLO about what is expected of them in sense of de-radicalization.

Why is it so important? Because what we have seen on October 7, unfortunately, is not just the Hamas terrorists coming into Israel in the first wave who infiltrated Israel. The second wave was so called “ordinary people” from Gaza, not Hamas terrorist, that came and burned and raped and killed.

Therefore, if I want to have a different future for my people, for the Palestinian people, we also need them to go through a process of de-radicalization. If you're a European country and you want to give hope to people, its crucial to address the element of radicalization and to ensure that Hamas has zero legitimacy in any future discussion by the PLO not just by Europe. Unfortunately, they didn't take any measure of this kind.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, requested an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of Hamas for war crimes. This decision was criticized by Israeli government officials and its international partners. According to some Western leaders, it is not permissible to equate the leaders of Israel and Hamas. How would you evaluate the decision of the International Criminal Court?

Let me start by thanking you for being very accurate in your question because some people say that the warrant has been issued. No, the prosecutor asked for a warrant to be issued. And as you rightly said, it has been denounced by many. President Biden called it outrageous for many reasons, also because of this attempt to draw this false symmetry between Ismail Haniyeh (Head of Hamas Political Bureau) and Yahya Sinwar (Head of the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) in the Gaza Strip) which are a psychopathic terrorist, and between, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense in Israel. The accusation itself, what the prosecutor is saying is false. There hasn't been and there isn't policy of starvation. I said it before, we're talking about half a million tons of food, medical aid, other humanitarian need that has been entered the Gaza strip since October seventh. There is a website by COGAT for everybody who's interested. You can see the daily report of how many tracks, which is usually around 500 tracks, has entered from Israel in the land crossing. You can see how much has been parachuted. You can see what is coming from the sea.

We are supplying more water than we did before October seventh. There isn't a policy of starvation. We are seeing trucks waiting inside Gaza for UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) to deliver the food. The battle net bottle neck is inside Gaza. The question has to be referred to UNRWA. Why aren't you distributing ? The second thing that I want to say about the ICC is that the whole principle that the ICC is based on is what we call complementary. It means that if a state is unwilling or incapable of investigating itself, this is where the ICC steps in. Israel has a very strong independent judicial system. We have been saying since the beginning, the people of Israel will demand for an overall investigation when this will be over. This is the basic principle that this court is based on, and prosecutor's decision is undermining the same principle (of complementary).

And do you know what was very surprising? He was supposed to come to Israel. Khan was supposed to visit Israel next week to have meetings with the judicial system reps. And he decided to cancel his visit and instead to come out with this public statement. This raises many questions regarding the real motivation behind his statement. And I want to add one more thing. Israel is not a side to the ICC. We didn't join, and therefore, we don't recognize it's jurisdiction. But even if you are a member, the accession of the Palestinians into the ICC was extremely controversial. The Palestinian is not a recognized state by many, many countries. To conclude- We are not members and don’t recognize its jurisdiction, the PLO membership is not consensual and the prosecutor as I said chose publication over a professional visit to study the facts.

We have had the first exchange of hostages happening 50 days into the war. We are now 230 days into the war. Hamas is being empowered. Hamas is being empowered by acts like this, and this hamper the ability to negotiate the release of more hostages to bring to the end of this war. People should know that the act, the political acts are actually threatening Israelis, were being held in the terror channels for many, many days.

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