In light of the recent war in Gaza and the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East, acceding to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s demands of Israel would be tantamount to suicide, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday in a public address.
“The demand for a withdrawal to 1967 lines, with no defensible borders, no hold on the Jordan Valley, with no ability to operate defensively within the area, with no demilitarization of Gaza — every sensible person understands… that this is a framework for collective suicide,” he said at the IDC Herzliya’s International Policy Institute for Counter-Terror’s annual conference.
Steinitz spoke in the wake of a 50-day war in Gaza, which he interpreted as part of the current regional upheavals.
During the 1970s, he said, Israel was under the impression that only in Lebanon, a country riven by sectarian tensions, could a terror organization wrest control of sizable tracts of land and advance a private agenda, as the PLO did at the time. “We thought that they were the exception to the rule,” he said.
This held true through Hezbollah’s rise to prominence in Lebanon after Israel’s May 2000 withdrawal, he said, but has been shattered in recent months, which saw terror groups seize territory across the Muslim world, from Nigeria to Afghanistan.
“And what happened in Gaza, what happened to the PA, is part of the very same phenomenon,” he said, referring to Hamas’s 2007 takeover in Gaza and the threat it represents to the PA in the West Bank.
Steinitz noted that in this, Israel was not alone. The United States, he said, invested billions of dollars in Iraq and in forming an Iraqi army, but shortly after the US pulled its own forces out of the area, the Islamic State and others took over. “Behold: what a nightmare,” he said.
And yet, he said, in the final tally, amid the clashes between extremist Sunni and Shiite elements, the latter were a far graver threat, though their respective agendas were similar. While the Sunni jihadists still lacked a state — their declaration of a caliphate called Islamic State notwithstanding — the Shiite extremist republic of Iran is in pursuit of a nuclear umbrella, under which it will advance its ideology.
Heading to Washington this week at the helm of a defense delegation slated to discuss the nuclear talks with Iran, he said that Israel was “worried” about the matter but that cooperation with the US officials and the Obama administration is “intensive and constructive” and that he had no doubt that, in the end, the fanatics will not have the upper hand.