My God that Fran Kelly of Radio National's Breakfast program is a regular tiger - sorry, tigress. Once she gets her claws into some hapless PR flak, that's it. Dead (nay, mince) meat!
And so it was yesterday morning when the Israeli Prime Minister's oleaginous spokesman, Mark Regev, on the line from Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem to sell Israel's latest killing spree in Gaza, found himself on the receiving end of she-who-goes-straight-for-the-jugular.
A fearless defender of the poor and the oppressed, more on top of the Middle East conflict than Finkelstein and Loewenstein combined, Kelly gave the unfortunate lad no quarter - none! Why, the poor bugger could hardly get a word in edgewise and, by the end of it all, was literally reduced to silence.
Mark Regev? Reduced to silence? Don't believe me?
Seeing is believing. Here's the transcript, read it for yourself:
FK: Well, let's return to the leading international story of the moment, the Israeli strikes on Gaza which have killed Hamas' top military commander. Hamas says the death of Ahmed al Jabari will, as they put it, open the gates of hell. Israel launched about 20 strikes on Gaza overnight after a spike in rocket attacks against Israel over the weekend. Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he's preparing to intensify the Gaza operation if necessary. Four years ago Israel launched a ground offensive along with a blockade of Gaza which killed over one thousand Palestinians and left 13 Israelis dead. Mark Regev is the chief spokesperson for for the Israeli prime minister. He joins us from Jerusalem. Mark, welcome again to Radio National Breakfast.
MR: Good morning.
FK: Mark, why does Israel argue that the assassination of Ahmed al Jabari is legitimate?
MR: This particular individual is a military commander, the commander of Hamas. He was directly responsible for countless rocket attacks across the border. You know, over the last few months we've literally had hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities, on Israeli towns, on Israeli villages, on rural communities. They indiscriminately just target civilians. It's a war crime, it's an act of terror, and enough is enough after we had 120 such rockets on the weekend. We said we're gonna strike back and we're gonna neutralise this threat to the Israeli civilian population.
FK: And does Israel believe it has done that now? If Ahmed al Jabari was directly responsible for those attacks in your words, he was killed in the first strike, the first attack in those 20 strikes, is that the end of it now? Have you achieved your mission?
MR: We've also, in parallel, targeted missile facilities in the Gaza Strip because we are, of course, concerned with retaliation and over the last few months Gaza, the Hamas leadership, has received from Iran, and also from Libya, thousands of rockets and missiles and we're trying to take them out so we don't see these munitions target our civilian population. We've got an alert on in the south today. Obviously, schoolchildren are in bomb shelters. Everyone's preparing for a Hamas retaliation and so we're acting...
FK: Well you would expect...
MR:... we're acting...
FK: I beg your pardon, Mark.
MR:... we're acting to take, trying to neutralise that threat as best we can.
FK: So you would be expecting retaliation. Hamas is threatening retaliation because, as you have schoolchildren sheltering in bunkers, they claim they had some children among the civilians killed in these air strikes overnight.
MR: It's a very important distinction, a very important distinction. They fire indiscriminately into our civilian population, trying to kill our people. We are trying to be as surgical as is humanly possible, and it's very difficult because, as you know, Hamas puts its military facilities right deliberately in the middle of civilian neighbourhoods, using Gaza civilians as human shields. Nevertheless we're making every effort possible to avoid civilian casualties. The people of Gaza are not our enemies. The enemy is Hamas, these extremists who, under Australian law, Israeli law, American law or European law, Japanese law, Canadian law, Hamas is registered as a terrorist organisation and rightly so.
FK: The people of Gaza are not your enemy but the people of Gaza, with these first 20 strikes, some - many - have already been injured and some have already been killed. More will be killed if Israel escalates this offensive. Is Israel preparing to intensify the operation?
MR: The bottom line is we didn't want this round of fighting. We were responding to this escalation that Hamas instituted over the weekend. Now they've started this, we'll finish it. We cannot allow...
FK: And what does that mean?
MR: That means we cannot allow Hamas to hold the civilian population of southern Israel, more than 1 million people, hostage to constant rocket attacks. We were down in the south earlier this week and we heard schoolchildren and they said to us, you know, children all round the world they hear a bell that means school's about to start or school's about to end. When children in southern Israel hear a bell, it's a siren. They run to a bomb shelter and they've got all of 15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter before that missile launched by Hamas hits them and possibly kills them. We can't stand for this. No government in the world would see its civilian population that are targeted this way by a group of terrorists on the other side of the border. We have to act to protect them.
FK: So when the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon urges both sides of this conflict to de-escalate the tensions now and the violence now it doesn't sound like Israel is prepared to do that yet.
MR: We will continue to make sure that our civilian population is safe. That is our first obligation as a government. You've gotta remember there's one million Israelis who live in the southern part of our country who have been on the receiving end of rockets from Gaza, not for days but for weeks and for months now and it's simply intolerable. What would the Australian government do if its civilian population was targeted by terrorists? You would act. The Australian government would act and rightly so to protect its people. Well, we're doing exactly the same.
FK: But when you say, and Israel says, they started it, we're going to finish it, what does that mean, because 4 years ago Israel invaded and blockaded Gaza. Many people, many, many hundreds of people, Palestinian civilians and others, including Israelis, were killed in that. It didn't finish it. The pattern established suggests that, you know, strikes like this and escalating strikes like this don't end anything.
MR: Well, the real solution is, of course, peace, to negotiate a peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbours. The problem is that Hamas opposes peace, Hamas opposes reconciliation, Hamas even opposes dialogue with Israel. We hope it's possible to negotiate peace with the Palestinians but it's clear Hamas is the enemy of everyone who wants to seek peace and reconciliation in this part of the world. They're in the camp of Iran and Hezbollah. They're very very extreme, they're very radical. I would argue that they're not only the enemy of Israeli civilians, they're the enemy of Gaza civilians, because instead of putting their efforts into making schools in Gaza better, investing in Gaza infrastructure, these Hamas radicals put the people of Gaza... their radical, anti-Israel agenda is more important to them than anything else and the people of Gaza suffer because of that.
FK: Mark Regev, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.
MR: Thank you for having me.
FK: Mark Regev is the chief spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.