Israeli Ambassador: if Israel targeted civilians, death toll would have been 100x higher

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States says the death toll in Gaza is proof that his country’s military wasn’t targeting civilians.

“If we wanted to attack civilians, you wouldn’t see 2,000 dead in Gaza — you would see a number 10 or 100 times that,” Ambassador Ron Dermer told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “No military has taken greater care to get civilians out of harm’s way.”

The ambassador insists that Israel has shown great restraint in the face of adversity, and questions whether the United States would do the same under similar circumstances.

“Imagine if there had been 2 million Americans that had to rush into bomb shelters and you were being attacked by a terror organization —do you really believe that the U.S. military would use less force than Israel has used in this conflict?” Dermer asked.

Dermer said he’s “more optimistic about the prospects of this ceasefire” leading to a sustainable truce between Israel and Gaza, but insists that peace depends on the actions of Hamas.

“It’s a very simple equation,” he said; “if Hamas doesn’t rearm, the chances of having another round of violence any time in the near future go way down.”

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Hamas, ISIS and Boko Haram

The Israeli ambassador says there are parallels between militant organizations like Hamas, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Boko Haram, and is calling on the world to stand united against them.

“This is a battle between civilization and barbarism,” the ambassador said.

Radical militant groups pose a threat to everyone, he said.

“You have ISIS, you have Hamas, you have Boko Haram. In our part of the world you have militant Islamic organizations in many, many different quarters and people in the region are beginning to understand that an organization like Hamas is not just a threat to Israel, not just a threat to Jews, but a threat to them.”

Dermer’s comments echo that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted shortly after ISIS published a video of its members beheading American journalist James Foley, “The simple truth: Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas.”

Dermer said it’s dangerous to allow these groups to get a taste of victory.
“The thing that will fuel terrorism and violence more than anything else is a sense of victory. If ISIS believes it can continue to terrify the world, continue to expand, continue to conquer more and more places without a response from the international community, you will see recruits from all over the world flocking to join its ranks. If they start losing, you will see a lot of people leaving a sinking ship.”

Others contest the Hamas-ISIS comparison. Though the U.S. classifies Hamas and ISIS as terrorist groups, their roots are different. Hamas is driven by statehood and political concerns, while ISIS’ mission is to spread Islam. The two groups have different backers and enemies, and their affiliates have come into conflict with one another.

No fear of international isolation

Dermer says his government is not concerned about the prospects of international isolation after five Latin American countries — El Salvador, Chile, Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador — recalled their ambassadors from Israel in protest of recent actions in Gaza.

“We regret that the Latin American countries decided to pull back their ambassadors,” Dermer said. “I hope they will return – we’ve had excellent relations with those Latin American countries for many years.”

He added, “I don’t feel international isolation. I’ll remind you that we were fighting for about 50 days, that’s a long time for Israel to be fighting in conflict and to be getting the support of most responsible countries… I think we have to put it in perspective.”

On the contrary, Dermer noted, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia supported Israel’s crackdown on Hamas.

“What was interesting is that many of the countries in the region, the Arab states in the region, did not condemn Israel, did not rush out, you didn’t see people going to squares in Arab capitals and I think that is very interesting,” the ambassador said. “That’s a silence that roars.”