Israel won an “impressive victory” in Operation Protective Edge, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in a wide-ranging interview broadcast Friday, his first since a truce between Israel and Hamas took effect in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
The Likud minister told Channel 2 that Israel not only scored a major triumph against Hamas on the battlefield, but also scored a diplomatic victory inasmuch as Hamas accepted Egypt’s unconditional ceasefire proposal.
“From a military perspective there’s no doubt, the victory is clear,” he said. “Also from a diplomatic perspective, Hamas, after all, went where we wanted it to go.” He noted that Hamas initially called for the establishment of a seaport and airport and the release of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, but “received, in practice, a ceasefire as we wanted it — without conditions.”
The IDF destroyed Hamas’s offensive tunnel capability, assassinated its commanders, destroyed its infrastructure and left it with roughly a quarter of its pre-war rocket arsenal, he said. Ya’alon wouldn’t comment on the fate of Hamas military leader Muhammad Deif, who was targeted in an Israeli airstrike earlier this month and hasn’t been seen or heard of in the weeks since. “Let’s wait and see.”
He dismissed out of hand any possibility of the Gaza Strip getting a seaport, saying “it’s not in Israel’s interest, it’s not in Egypt’s interest, it’s not even the interest of the Palestinian Authority.”
Going forward with the open-ended ceasefire agreed upon by Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza, Ya’alon said that should “they fire rockets or mortars, Hamas and the other [Palestinian terror groups in Gaza] will see us strike hard.” He noted, however, that Hamas didn’t fire a single rocket at Israel between November 2012, when the ceasefire agreement went into effect after Operation Pillar of Defense, and June 2014. All violations of the ceasefire were committed by various other terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip, he said, but each time, Israel held the violators and Hamas alike accountable.
He remarked that no Hamas leader was immune to death, and encouraged Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, who has lived outside Gaza for years and spent this past conflict on the sidelines in Qatar, to return to the Palestinian enclave.
Concerning the Israeli cabinet, members of which made statements to the press during the operation which ran opposite the government’s position, Ya’alon said he was “not proud of the behavior of the cabinet” and admonished “those young ones in the group” for “playing politics” by leaking information and criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz during the war.
He wouldn’t comment on whether he was referring to Jewish Home party leader and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett — a first-time cabinet minister — or veteran Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, but said that “There are those in the cabinet whom we cannot teach; there are others that perhaps will be taught in the future.”
Ya’alon said that Netanyahu was concerned about bringing a draft of the ceasefire agreement, which hadn’t even been discussed, to the cabinet out of fear it would be leaked to the press.
As for a possible future peace agreement with the Palestinians resulting in a two-state solution, the defense minister said he and Netanyahu had “no illusions” about it, and didn’t think it would happen soon.
“How can it happen soon? It’s a very long process, if at all,” he said. “Without the IDF and the Shin Bet,” he said, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “wouldn’t survive.”