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06/01/2009 - 08:10

Interview by CNN

Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister, Israel: We know that they have troops. It's a small army there. They used the truce in order to smuggle more - more and more weapons, not only missiles. They attack our forces with mortars also (ph), and we know that there are explosives in different parts not only within the city, but in places in which they expect Israeli soldiers to come.

Amanpour: Did they try to kidnap soldiers?

. Livni:: They announced that - they warned Israel not to enter the military operation because they'll kidnap soldiers.

Amanpour: But they did try to...

. Livni: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Amanpour: How long can this go on?

. Livni:: Until a moment in which we have Hamas weaker, in which we know that they understand that Israel is not willing to live in realities in which our citizens are being targeted, and this is a combination between the military ability and the motivation, and we are working on both sides.

Amanpour: You have sounded quite upbeat. Other Israeli officials sound quite upbeat. But I remember this same atmosphere at the beginning of your war with Hezbollah in 2006. It's widely believed that that war was very badly handled, and in fact you yourself criticized the prime minister for his handling of the Hezbollah war. Why should this one be any different?

. Livni:: Because Israel is a state in which we learn from our own experience, and (inaudible).

Amanpour: You say it will help the peace process. But every time Israel goes to war against - whether it's Hezbollah or even whether it's against Hamas, it does in fact end up helping those who are the victims or the targets of your war, particularly given how many civilians are being killed by your forces in Gaza.

.Livni:: I can understand that the reality - not only the pictures coming from Gaza, but the reality can provoke and can make demonstrations, and provoke demonstrations in different parts of the world, especially in the Arab world. I can understand the empathy that public and the public opinion in different parts toward the Palestinians. We are not fighting the Palestinians. We are fighting Hamas, a terrorist organization which controls Gaza strip.

Now, it is true, and you asked me, there are also civil casualties. But we are trying to avoid civil casualties, even though it's not easy, while Hamas is targeting our civilians as a target. Now...

Amanpour: Mrs. Livni, all Israelis feel that's a very, very bad thing, and everybody knows that -- most people accept that it is Hamas who provoked the -- your incursion. However, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed, many of them are children, many of them are women. More than 2,000 have been wounded, many of them children, many of them women and elderly men. There are a lot of civilians amongst the casualties. What are you going to do to avoid that, and can you in this case?

Livni:: What we are doing is trying to avoid it. We are putting now our forces at risk because there are certain things that we didn't want to do from the air in highly populated areas. This is what we are doing.

Amanpour: The Palestinians leadership complain very bitterly about the disproportionate use of Israeli force. What is your view on the proportionality of your response?

. Livni:: I have to say that I can't understand what is the nature of proportionality which is needed. I mean, they targeted last week a school in Beersheba, in Israel. Do you think that the proportionate action is to target a school? We are not going to do this. They are targeting civilians. We are not going to do this. So the only measure that we are taking is to have them understand that this needs to be stopped. This is the expression of self-defense, the right of self-defense of a state.

. Livni: And we tried -- we tried a truce. We decided not to target at all. We decided not to retaliate at all. It didn't help. So this time, we needed to say that, yes, maybe it is not according to - we are not answering one to one, one more to one missile to come from Israel. This needs to be stopped. So the question of proportionality I think is being misused against Israel.

Amanpour: You say proportionality is being misused against Israel, but you yourself know that it is a player in this game, because the street is going to dictate how long you can keep this up.

. Livni: I agree. The street, especially in the Arab world, and also in Europe and elsewhere, can affect the possibility of leaders who understand -- the international leaders understand what we are doing. There are other parts in this world in which other states are fighting terror, as we are doing now in Gaza strip. So it is to answer your direct question, yes, clearly some of the international leadership is going to be affected by the public opinion, maybe by the press, and the pressure on Israel is going to be - to become stronger in the next few days, I believe.

Amanpour: Many people are calling for a cease-fire. Will you accept a cease-fire?

. Livni: There is one thing that frustrates me. The idea of saying something like, Israel and Hamas need to stop. A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, it's not the same. I'm not willing to put Israel and Hamas in the same package or even use the same wording, because, as you said before, we are expressing our right of self-defense. Israel is a state which is a member of the international community, while Hamas is a terrorist organization. Israel acts against Hamas because it targets Israel. So they know what to do in order to stop it.

Amanpour: So you're going to continue until they stop?

. Livni: They need to stop.

Amanpour And if they don't?

. Livni: Israel takes necessary steps. It can be during this operation. It can be -it can be done later. At the end of the day, they need to understand that we are determined this time to change reality for our citizens. The idea is not to act against the population in Gaza strip. It's not about who controls Gaza strip. As long as we can live in peace and quiet in Israel. | By Christiane Amanpour,

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