Operation Protective Edge has brought with it a diplomatic opportunity, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.
“There is now a reality that allows us to act according to our security interests on one hand and [on the other], start a new, responsible diplomatic initiative based on this new reality,” he told Israel’s Channel 10.
Netanyahu said that he hoped, following Hamas’s behavior during the 51-day conflict and the Shin Bet revelation earlier this month of a Hamas plot to overthrow the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, that PA President Mahmoud Abbas would now be able to see Hamas’s true colors and sever ties with the Islamist group.
“[Abbas] understands that this gang [Hamas] was plotting his overthrow and we thwarted it,” said Netanyahu, adding that he could “only hope Abbas would hand Hamas a ‘get'” — Hebrew for a divorce decree.
Netanyahu said he hoped Abbas would choose Israel over a unity government with Hamas and suggested that if this were the case, he would be willing the pursue a peace deal in talks with the PA.
“I think [Abbas] understands today that he must choose between a Hamas that doesn’t only call for [Israel’s] destruction, it also called for his overthrow, and in fact acted on it. I hope that we can cooperate with him on a diplomatic process,” said Netanyahu in the Channel 10 interview, an excerpt of which was aired Friday.
The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration.
“If I had to choose whether Hamas could enter the West Bank or if the Palestinian Authority could return to the Gaza Strip, I would choose the latter and not the former,” Netanyahu said.
The full interview with Netanyahu is set to air on Saturday evening.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also remarked in a Channel 2 interview Friday that if it weren’t for the IDF and Shin Bet, Abbas “wouldn’t survive.”
Earlier Friday, Abbas accused Hamas of needlessly extending the fighting in the Gaza Strip over the past two months, causing a high death toll.
In the interview with Palestine TV, Abbas questioned the future of the unity government with the terror group.
A senior official in the PA also told the Times of Israel that Hamas is preventing the PA from returning to Gaza Strip. He said that despite declarations by Hamas that it would cooperate with the PA to rebuild the Gaza Strip, it’s so far preventing it from doing so.
On Thursday, two days after the ceasefire went into effect, Netanyahu said Israel would back the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to return to a governing position in the Gaza Strip.
“We would be happy if Abbas’s forces would enter Gaza,” he said.
According to a report in a Jordanian paper Thursday, Netanyahu and Abbas met secretly in Amman several days ago to discuss the ceasefire with Hamas, offering no further details.