Official implies Israel to ignore UNSC ceasefire resolution

Hanegbi’s words ‘misunderstood,’ PA can’t rule post-war Gaza — senior Israeli official

National security adviser caught flak from far-right over Arabic op-ed; official says there are currently no active talks for new hostage deal, but Israel interested in agreement

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Illustrative: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool, File)
Illustrative: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool, File)

A senior Israeli official sought Thursday to water down remarks made earlier in the day by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, which were taken to mean that the government may allow a reformed Palestinian Authority a role in governing Gaza after the ongoing war with Hamas, and which had earned him criticism from far-right coalition members.

Speaking in an off-record briefing to the press, the official said Hanegbi’s comments in an op-ed in the Saudi-owned Elaph news site had been “misunderstood,” insisting that there can be no role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza after the war because it cannot be trusted to fulfill Israel’s requirements, including demilitarizing the territory.

The official also said that Israel is interested in reaching a new hostage release agreement with Hamas in which the remaining 17 women and children would be released first, but that there are no active negotiations at present. Hamas terrorists kidnapped over 240 hostages during their October 7 rampages in southern Israel, in which they brutally murdered some 1,200 people.

The official dismissed any potential UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire as “hypocritical” and insinuated that Israel would ignore it, while adding that if diplomacy is not successful in getting Hezbollah to retreat from the area of the Israel-Lebanon border, “other means” would be used to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens in the north.

Addressing what has become a highly political issue of the future governance of Gaza, he said Israel had three goals for the coastal enclave after the war: that it be demilitarized, deradicalized, and that a functioning civil administration be established.

He said the PA was not capable of delivering on any of these goals.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi speaks during a statement to the media at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv on October 31, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“On the first issue [demilitarization], we know the PA can’t do it because they are not ready to confront the terrorists… they haven’t done it since the beginning of the Oslo Accords and they don’t do it today… We can’t take people who aren’t doing this in Jenin and ask them to do it in Gaza. It’s a non-starter,” the official said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed that he will not allow the PA to take charge in Gaza after the war, a policy his far-right coalition allies are pushing him to maintain despite US pressure to allow such an arrangement.

The official said that instead, Israel wants moderate Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to be involved in de-radicalizing Gaza, alongside Western assistance, and wants civilian life in Gaza to be run by a “local administration of Palestinians” that is “able to work for the future horizon of the Palestinian people with help of moderate Arab countries.”

Regarding the possibility of a new hostage deal, he said that there were currently no active negotiations, but noted that Israeli officials have met twice this week with Qatari officials to discuss a new framework for such an arrangement.

“We made clear to everyone in Israel and outside of Israel that it’s time to renew the shaping up of a new hostages [release] structure,” he said, but indicated that Israel would seek the release of the remaining women and children in captivity first, before other groups of hostages.

“We have made clear that we’re ready to continue from the place where we started — releasing the women and children… Eighty were already released, but unfortunately, the last 17 are not yet back home.”

It is believed that 129 hostages abducted on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians, including some 80 Israelis, were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November.

Families and supporters of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza attend a rally calling for their return, in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2023. (AP/Leo Correa)

Asked when Israel will switch to lower-intensity fighting in Gaza, the official said there was no timetable for such a move, and that both low- and high-intensity combat operations would continue in accordance with the IDF’s operational needs and determinations.

“We have to eradicate Hamas. Hamas cannot stay no matter in what shape or form. There are areas where we haven’t been working at all, so when we go there you will see very high-intensity operations in places where we haven’t been able to get to until now. In places where the operation is over and there is a decisive victory, we won’t need high-intensity operations anymore.”

The official also addressed the efforts in the UN Security Council to pass a resolution demanding a halt to the fighting, describing such an idea as “hypocritical” and implying that Israel would ignore any such decision.

“We are committed to putting an end to the existence of Hamas, because of the atrocities, because of the fact that they swore to go forward [again] with those atrocities, because they are committed to killing us, to raping us, to decapitating us. This [goal] is not going to change.”

Turning to the northern front and to persistent attacks against Israel by Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group on the northern border, the official said efforts by US President Joe Biden’s administration to find a way to distance Hezbollah from the border were “genuine” and that “no one would be happier than us” if the problem was resolved through diplomacy.

“If diplomacy won’t bring about a solution, we will have no choice but to use other means to make sure that the north is safe, Hezbollah is taken away from the border, and Israeli citizens, about 100,000 people that left their homes, will be able to come back home safe,” he said.

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