The Israeli ambassador in Madrid Rodica Radian-Gordon (Bucharest, 1957) assures in this interview with LA RAZÓN that the war in Gaza will decrease in intensity if Hamas releases the 136 hostages. The diplomat had several disagreements over the position of the Government of Pedro Sánchez, who questioned whether Israel complies with international law due to the high number of victims in Gaza. The ambassador was called for consultations in Israel and she left the position empty in Madrid for 40 days until the diplomatic crisis was resolved. Today she says that the Government of Spain “does not have a hostile attitude towards Israel”but asks the socialist president to rethink the economic aid that Spain provides to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, due to the connection of 12 of its workers with the October 7 attacks that cost the lives of more of 1,400 Israelis.
Is the Israeli population still traumatized by the October 7 attack?
People are still experiencing the trauma of October 7 and we also have many soldiers who died during these almost four months of fighting. We have more than 550 dead soldiers and around 5,000 wounded soldiers. People constantly experience this tension knowing that there are still 136 people in the hands of Hamas. In Israel you hear many stories of the freed hostages, especially women, very harsh. On the other hand, people in Israel see what the army is finding in Gaza, with a huge network of tunnels and war material.
Did you think the war was going to drag on for so long?
We are seeing something that no one could imagine and it is a terrorist organization totally intertwined in a civilian population. The large network of tunnels in Gaza and the cynicism in using civilian facilities as human shields is very serious. And I’m thinking of UNRWA, a supposedly neutral organization that has become a tool of Hamas, which infiltrated local Gazan workers inside. To eradicate Hamas’s military capabilities and its power in the strip, a very great effort must be made. That the war dragged on for so long shows the difficulties of fighting in an urban area where many civilians live.
Israel has cast doubt on the death toll in Gaza. Do you think fewer have died than Hamas says?
The published figures come directly from Hamas offices. We don’t know if they are correct. They also don’t tell us how many are civilians and how many are Hamas people. We know that at least 10,000 of the dead are Hamas people who are often presented as civilian victims. On the other hand, many have died not because of the Israeli Army but because of failed Hamas missiles that have fallen in areas of Gaza or because Hamas has not let the civilian population leave. Part of this fight is to delegitimize Israel as a state. Not only is it a fight against a terrorist entity, but part of this fight is also a war of perceptions in which unfortunately we do not have the achievements we expected.
Do you think the Spanish Government should cut funding to UNRWA?
There are already more than 20 governments that have done this, which shows that they are taking what we are saying seriously. UNRWA is an abnormality from the beginning because it is the only UN agency that deals only with a specific population, which are originally the Arab refugees from the war of 48. UNRWA supposedly had to take care of it to give them education and health, but what What has happened over the years is that UNRWA has perpetuated an artificial situation with refugees. Young Gazans are being incited to hate in schools in the Gaza Strip. We must review everything that UNRWA was doing in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Has the Government of Spain had a hostile attitude towards the Government of Israel?
I do not believe that Spain has a hostile position towards Israel. What I hope is that the Spanish Government rethinks its aid to UNRWA and pays attention to what this agency does. The UN has launched an investigation after we identified twelve people who had been involved in the October 7 attacks. We know that there are many more people identified with Hamas who were working for UNRWA in Gaza. You have to do a very clear investigation. What Israel is saying is that perhaps the time has come to dismantle UNRWA and offer aid through other agencies that are not so penetrated by Hamas.
Israel’s main objective is to eliminate Hamas. Don’t you think that the death of so many Palestinians in Gaza will give Hamas or another organization more support from Palestinians in the future?
Things are more complex. The population in Gaza has been held hostage by Hamas since 2007. Gazans are very shocked by everything that is happening and there are already some voices that criticize Hamas from within. But the most important thing is to change education. Now we see that some of the books that young people study there are full of hatred towards Israel. A change of mentality is needed for there to be reconciliation because they have a lot of hatred towards Israel. In Israel it is not understood that the population attacked on October 7 was precisely the one that was trying to help the Gazans, the one that was building bridges with the Palestinians. That has left a deep mark and now we do not know how to proceed with the Palestinians. The question is whether we have a partner on the other side.
Do you think the Israeli government’s response to the Hamas attacks of October 7 would have been the same if another prime minister had governed instead of Netanyahu?
Definitely. The vast majority of Israel believes that the government’s response has been appropriate. People know that Hamas’s objective is to eradicate us, therefore we are faced with a fight for survival and that is why the war is being widely understood among Israelis.
Are you concerned that Israel will be seen as a genocidal state by other countries and could be tried at the International Criminal Court?
It is a very serious accusation that contributes to expanding anti-Israel propaganda in the world. It has a lot to do with the delegitimization of Israel as a state. It is worrying that South Africa has taken this step to take Israel to the International Criminal Court as South Africa has ties to Hamas. The International Criminal Court does not think that Israel is committing genocide because among the precautionary measures there is no request for an immediate ceasefire. Furthermore, Israel has presented ample evidence of the measures it has taken to try to protect the local population of Gaza and has let humanitarian aid into the Strip, aid that often goes to Hamas.
Do you think that European countries could end up withdrawing support for Israel if the war drags on and the death toll rises?
So far we see support and solidarity with Israel. The reaction that Israel had to take to defend itself is understandable. If the negotiations advance and bear fruit and the hostages are released, I understand that the intensity of the war will decrease. We have destroyed 75% of Hamas’s military capacity. The next few days may mark a turning point.
Is Iran interested in a regional war of all against Israel?
There is no doubt that Iran is behind the provocations that seek a regional war by supporting its “proxies” (allies) in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. The deployment of the United States with a naval force in the area and an international coalition in the Red Sea is an important message. Nobody wants a regional war. The war in Gaza is a fight to try to change the geopolitics of the area. Without a doubt, we are seeing very dangerous moments.
Who will rule Gaza after the war?
That is something that will have to be negotiated. Thinking about that is premature. Israel has all its concentration on this war against Hamas, which is a true tragedy for them but also for Israel because it is a very bloody conflict.
Did Hamas attacks end the Abraham Accords to develop and pacify the region?
In recent years, Israel has taken important steps with the Abraham Accords with Arab countries to have a more prosperous region. Relations with the Emirates are a very living example of what the Middle East can be in terms of development and hope. This Hamas attack has also been an attempt to destroy everything we are building, so that there is no hope in the region and people are desperate.