Jerusalem is currently not planning to reoccupy the Gaza Strip, but if Hamas continues its attacks on Israeli civilians, the government will seriously consider that measure, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday.
“We have all different options and everything is on the table — it depends on Hamas,” Livni said, after being asked how rising numbers of Israeli casualties impact the cabinet’s view on an expanded ground incursion into the coastal enclave. “We left the Gaza Strip, we pulled out our forces, we dismantled the settlements, hoping to live in peace and quiet. Our policy is not to reoccupy Gaza but we are now focused on threats emerging from Gaza. And if Hamas will not stop targeting Israel, we will consider all the other options, and all the options are on the table.”
The head of the centrist Hatnua party, Livni is considered the most dovish of the eight members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.
Operation Protective Edge’s current focus is on destroying terror tunnels used by Hamas to attack Israelis, Livni said. “Hamas is not willing to accept any ceasefire for now, so we will continue to do so.”
In the long run, however, only a complete demilitarization of the Gaza Strip will bring calm to Israel’s south, Livni said. “This is something I believe is not only in Israel’s interest, but also in the interest of those on the Palestinian side who would like to live in peace. And this is [also] the interest of Egypt and the entire world,” she told reporters during a briefing organized by The Israel Project. “Speaking about the long run, demilitarization is something that is needed.”
Livni declined to spell out how Israel would go about demilitarizing Gaza, merely stating that it would discuss the issue with the international community. “Now we’re focused on the need to stop these terrorists, to act against those tunnels, to stop rockets against Israel,” she said. “In the real long run it is also clear that when we reach a comprehensive [peace] agreement with the legitimate Palestinian Authority, with the PLO, Gaza should be part of it, and demilitarization of Gaza is a part of [what will be] the future agreement.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly said in recent days in conversations with world leaders that the “international community must work toward the demilitarization of Gaza.”
Hamas’s repeated refusal of previous ceasefire offers show that the organization is taking Gazans “and basically the entire world” hostage, Livni said.
The two warring sides were not Israel versus the Palestinians in Gaza, she added. Rather, they were Israel, the PA, Jordan, Egypt and “most of the Arab world” on one side, facing off against “Hamas and the extremists, those who are not willing to live in peace here,” she said. “I would hope that Hamas would make the decision that is the best for its people and stop targeting Israel, not for the sake of Israel but for the sake of its own people.”