Netanyahu: Toppling Hamas would have been unwise
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Netanyahu: Toppling Hamas would have been unwise

PM says removing terror group from rule in Gaza would take 500 days and bear heavy costs at time when other borders are threatened

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a signing ceremony for a new private port to be built in the Southern Israeli city of Ashdod, at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on September 23, 2014. (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a signing ceremony for a new private port to be built in the Southern Israeli city of Ashdod, at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on September 23, 2014. (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)

With Israel surrounded by ever-shifting threats, it would have been imprudent for the army to deal a finishing strike to Hamas during the summer military campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview published Wednesday.

The IDF conducted a highly successful military campaign in the Gaza Strip, dealing Hamas a heavy blow and achieving all of Israel’s security objectives, Netanyahu told free daily Israel Hayom.

However, he said, booting the terror group from power in Gaza would involve a several year campaign with heavy costs at a time when Israel is also eyeing new threats on its other borders.

“One of our considerations [in the decision not to topple Hamas] was based on regional assessments, which I could not ignore,” Netanyahu said.

“We have Hamas in the south, and the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front near the Golan Heights, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Islamic State quickly advancing in the east — and of course, above all we have Iran, who has not abandoned its support for some of these terrorist organizations, nor its plan to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” he said.

Palestinian gunmen from the military wing of Hamas during what they termed a 'victory rally' amid the debris of destroyed houses in Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold of Gaza City, Wednesday, August 27, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)
Palestinian gunmen from the military wing of Hamas during what they termed a ‘victory rally’ amid the debris of destroyed houses in Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold of Gaza City, Wednesday, August 27, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)

“I decided that the proper way to deal with this range of issues was to severely harm Hamas in Gaza, but not to be drawn into the Strip, otherwise we would not have a 50-day operation, but a 500-day campaign, with very heavy tolls not only in terms of human life, but in other areas as well, leaving us with a dilemma over what the do with the conquered area; there would also be a price in the international arena, all of this, by the way, without a much better result.”

The prime minister asserted that Israel was more secure than it had been in the previous year, even as extremist Islamist forces across the Middle East continued to advance and wreak havoc on the region.

“We are in a better position, facing a worse reality,” he said.

Undated photo of Islamic State fighters near the border between Syria and Iraq (screen capture: YouTube/Vice)
Undated photo of Islamic State fighters near the border between Syria and Iraq (screen capture: YouTube/Vice)

“Our status is better since in one of these fronts, Hamas was completely battered, as it had never before been since its takeover of Gaza. We afflicted damage on each ​​of Hamas’s abilities and turned the organization many years back,” he said.

The 50-day Gaza war between Israel and Hamas-led terrorists ended on August 26 after more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians, according to Gaza-based medical sources. Israel, however, maintains that as many as 1,000 killed were combatants from various terror organizations and contends that Hamas is largely responsible for civilian casualties due to its tactics of firing from populated areas and alleged use of human shields.

On Tuesday, a three-member Israeli delegation was landed in Cairo for indirect talks on extending the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, which ended the 50-day-long operation in the Gaza Strip. The sides agreed to resume negotiations in October.

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