An Interview with The Israeli Consulate

By Hunter Owens (Co-Founder, Editor In Chief, Columnist) [?]

Published: February 9, 2009 and Updated: May 4, 2009
Original LA News Desk Content
SpicesCaption: A spice market in Israel.Source: AustinEvan via Flickr

I recently had the chance to interview David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York. Below is the transcript of his interview.

Q: Are there plans to re-enter Gaza after yesterday's air-strike?
A: Israel cannot allow the situation for civilians around Gaza to deteriorate to where it was before last month's operations. At that time, Hamas was firing dozens of rockets and mortars each day into civilian areas, making life intolerable for half a million Israelis. Since the operation ended, Hamas has once again signaled its indifference to civilian lives, both Israeli and Palestinian, and has resumed firing rockets at Israel. Israel will analyze the options open to it, but emphasizes that all options are on the table.

Q: What is it like for students in Sderot and Israel?
A: Students in Israel are pretty similar to those in the United States. They might watch some morning television over breakfast before setting off for school, where they study history, math, English, sciences, and other subjects. In the afternoon, kids might play soccer with friends or (weather permitting) head to the beach before doing homework. While this is a normal day, students living near Gaza might find their routine interrupted by rockets that might curtail their routine. Nonetheless, the vast majority of Israeli students are unaffected by such concerns.

Q: How are students affected by the War between Israel and Hamas?
A: In addition to the above answer, it's also important to remember that Israeli society is extremely close-knit. Many students had fathers, brothers or relatives of friends who took part in the recent operation. In addition, many students read the news or hear it on the radio, so they know what is going on, even if they can't always understand it. Students who live near Gaza are most affected; they learn how to evacuate their classrooms and take shelter in the event of a rocket attack.

Q: Will a new government in Israel change anything? (Israel holds elections starting on February 10th)
A: The highest priorities of the Israeli government, including the safety of Israeli civilians and moving towards peace with the Palestinians, are accepted by the candidates of all the major parties. We hope to continue our progress on all these fronts under our new leadership.

Q: Did Israel invade Gaza because it was the waning days to of the Bush Administration?
A: The recent operations were made necessary by an escalation on the part of Hamas following its unilateral refusal to renew a "lull" agreement. Israel and Hamas entered into this informal six-month agreement in June, with possible renewal after the December expiration date. Even as Israel pushed for a renewal of calm, Hamas decided not to renew the agreement and commenced rocket fire, to which Israel responded. The goal of this operation was to put an end to a situation in which more than 10,000 rockets have been fired at Southern Israel during the past 8 years.

Q: What is Israel stance about the new Administration in America?
A: Israel and the United States enjoy a close relationship based on similar values and cultures, and which has enjoyed bipartisan support. We look forward to continuing this relationship with the Obama Administration and to working with them on issues affecting the Middle East and the world at large.

Q: How aware are students about world issues in Israel?
A: Israeli students are quite well informed and keep abreast of current issues through mainstream and internet channels. Since students learn English in school, they can follow the news from a foreign perspective, as well.

Q: What will Israel do about the rebuilding of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt?
A: Israel has been working quite actively with other countries to ensure that Hamas cannot rearm after the current operation, a conclusion most members of the international community have reached as well. To date, the United States has agreed to provide technology and assistance along the Egypt-Gaza border and Cyprus has prevented an arms ship from reaching Gaza. These positive developments are important steps towards ending the smuggling entirely.

Q: Will Israel pursue military operations to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities?
A: Iran's reckless bid for nuclear weapons is one of today's greatest threats to stability around the world and the international community cannot allow this regime to have access to such destructive powers. Israel is committed to working within the international framework to halt this process by diplomatic means. If such means cannot achieve the desired aims, other options will be discussed if deemed appropriate.

Q: Many Los Angeles Jewish teens go to Israel. However, many parents are worried about sending their children. Why should they still go?
A: There is a lot to experience in Israel—whether or not you are Jewish. Jerusalem is an ancient and spiritual city with sites holy to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, but also modern sites like the Israel Museum and the Knesset (Israel's Parliament). Tel Aviv certainly deserves a visit as a vibrant and up-and-coming center for art, music, and culture. Once you leave the cities, however, opportunities to see nature are plentiful, especially in the Negev and Galilee regions. Of course, you can also experience the region's history from ancient to modern times. Visitors to any country should always act prudently, and Israel is no different from anywhere else in that respect.

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