Israel’s justice minister said she did not rule out Israel bringing down Hamas if that was what it took to restore security and calm for the people of Israel.
Tzipi Livni, the Hatnua party head who is the the most dovish member of Israel’s inner cabinet, was asked in a Channel 2 interview Friday night to confirm that the goal of Israel’s current ground offensive in Gaza is not to destroy Hamas. “I’m not taking anything off the table,” she replied. “I’m not going to tell them [Hamas] what the limits [of the operation] are. Among other things, it’s up to them.”
She said Hamas, in rejecting Egyptian ceasefire efforts, and attempting to murder Israeli civilians via ongoing rocket fire and a foiled under-border tunnel infiltration near a kibbutz on Thursday morning, had shown that it “lives in a completely different opera.”
The Islamist terror group appeared to think that it could come out of this conflict with political gains, she said. “I hope they understand today that’s not going to happen.” Israel, she stressed “has no quarrel with the people of Gaza. [But] there will be no political benefit for Hamas. It is a terror group that does not accept our existence.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that the goal of Operation Protective Edge, including the ground offensive begun late Thursday, is to restore sustained security for the people of Israel. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Friday it would “continue for as long as necessary.”
Livni acknowledged, however, that “as long as Hamas is there [in Gaza], with its ideology and its weaponry” Israel would only be able to deter it from attacking Israel for limited periods, punctuated by military operations such as this one. Hence, she said, her “full support” for the ground offensive, and her refusal to rule out any other options.
Livni added that Israel could honestly tell the bereaved family of Eitan Barak, the solider who died in combat in Gaza early Thursday morning, that “we tried everything first” before resorting to the ground incursion. “He was killed defending his homeland when all other means had failed.”
The IDF is investigating Barak’s death. A spokesman said Friday night that the 20-year-old was probably killed by an Israeli tank shell, fired in error.