Changing policy, hardliner Bennett proposes deal with Hamas
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Changing policy, hardliner Bennett proposes deal with Hamas

Jewish Home leader says Israel should enable civilian rehabilitation of Gaza, in exchange for end to Hamas rearming

Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (right), pictured with Shaar Hanegev Regional Council head Alon Shuster, at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israeli-Gaza Border on August 24, 2014. (Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90)
Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (right), pictured with Shaar Hanegev Regional Council head Alon Shuster, at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israeli-Gaza Border on August 24, 2014. (Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90)

Changing his policy, Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett on Saturday proposed that Israel reach a deal with Hamas under which it would be enabled to oversee “the civilian rehabilitation” of Gaza in return for stopping its military rearmament.

Bennett, the education minister, has hitherto repeatedly demanded that Israel “bring down” the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and publicly criticized his own government last summer for failing to do so during the 50-day Operation Protective Edge military conflict.

“It’s for a change of policy,” the Orthodox-nationalist leader said on Channel 2. “We need to initiate an international move for the civilian rehabilitation of Gaza in return for a halt to the rearming.”

Asked whether this meant he was now reconciled to the Islamist terror group’s rule in the Strip, Bennett said that Hamas’s rule was an undeniable fact. “I see they’re there.” That being the case, he said, his proposal was the best path ahead “until we take the decision to bring them down.”

Leader of the Jewish Home political party Economy Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to students at the Blich high school, Ramat Gan, Feb 12 2015. (photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
Leader of the Jewish Home political party Naftali Bennett (photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Bennett said he would present a proposal to this effect to the cabinet and, asked whether this might include allowing Hamas to open a sea port, as it has relentlessly demanded, he said, “I’m not ruling anything out.”

Several Israeli military and political leaders have said recently they see no current alternative to Hamas control of the strip, and there have been reports of indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas on a truce for some five years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Middle East Quartet Envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair in Jerusalem, in February (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with former British prime minister Tony Blair (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Israel’s Channel 10 reported on Thursday that, media sources in the territories have claimed former British prime minister Tony Blair, the outgoing Middle East Quartet peace envoy, has been mediating some kind of Israel-Hamas deal via Qatar.

On Thursday, Israel freed West Bank Hamas leader Hassan Yousef, who was arrested last year by Israel as part of a massive search to find three Israeli teenagers who were abducted and later found dead. He was being held without trial in administrative detention at the Ofer prison near Ramallah.

Channel 10 said several other Hamas leaders are set to go free in the next few days.

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