Labor presents Hamas demilitarization ultimatum as coalition demand

Labor presents Hamas demilitarization ultimatum as coalition demand

With ‘permanent resolution plan,’ Labor leader calls to offer Hamas a choice: give up arms or face a ‘broad military campaign’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Labor leader Amir Peretz at the Labor party faction meeting at the Knesset, November 4, 2019. (Hadas Porush/Flash90)
Labor leader Amir Peretz at the Labor party faction meeting at the Knesset, November 4, 2019. (Hadas Porush/Flash90)

Labor leader Amir Peretz said Israel should present Gaza’s Hamas rulers with an ultimatum to demilitarize or face an Israeli military operation, adopting the stance as a demand to be put forward to Blue and White in ongoing coalition negotiations.

Peretz called the idea a “permanent resolution plan” for the Gaza Strip, which traded fire with Israel over the weekend in the latest flareup to rock southern Israel.

Speaking at the weekly Labor party faction meeting in the Knesset, Peretz, who lives in Sderot outside the Strip, said that “the situation cannot continue as it is. Hamas is getting stronger and our deterrence is getting weaker.”

Gazan terrorists shot 10 rockets at Israel on Friday, damaging a home, though causing no injuries. Israel hit back with retaliatory air strikes on Hamas targets, the latest round of on-again, off-again violence that has plagued the region for months.

Palestinians walk around a crater caused by an Israeli airstrike launched in response to rocket fire, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, November 2, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

According to the Labor leader, his plan aims to break the current deadlock whereby, “Hamas is not looking to get to a permanent resolution and Israel simply has no answer.”

Peretz said the plan involves three key steps: Firstly, “renewing coordination with the Palestinian Authority and the moderate Arab states over the Gaza Strip;” then, at the core, “presenting an ultimatum to Hamas: rehabilitation for demilitarization and preparation of the PA to take responsibility for the Strip, or Israel will embark on a broad military campaign to destroy their military capability and bring about the replacement of Hamas in Gaza”; and finally, “renewing diplomatic dialogue” over the future of the Strip.

A Labor party spokesperson confirmed to The Times of Israel that Peretz would present the ultimatum plan to Blue and White as “a demand for entering the coalition.”

Blue and White said late Monday that representatives from the parties would meet Tuesday afternoon “with the goal of advancing common basic principles.”

President Reuven Rivlin presents Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with the mandate to form a new Israeli government, after Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to form one, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on October 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin last month tasked Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz with attempting to form a coalition after Netanyahu failed in the wake of the September elections, but Gantz’s chances of succeeding where Netanyahu failed are seen as just as slim.

Labor recommended Gantz to form a coalition both after the April and September elections.

Peretz on Monday blamed Netanyahu for the “lack of progress on any front in Gaza” saying it was “an embarrassment and a stain on this government.”

At the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, Netanyahu said he holds Hamas responsible for any attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, but will not divulge his plans for dealing with the situation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, pool)

There have been repeated bouts of violence between Hamas and Israel over the past year, as the Islamists have sought to improve on the terms of a UN- and Egyptian-brokered truce, first hammered out in November last year.

In return for Hamas silencing the rockets, Israel agreed to a package of measures to ease the crippling blockade it has imposed on Gaza — together with Egypt — for more than a decade, since Hamas, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, took over the territory in a bloody coup. Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent arms from entering Gaza that could be used to attack the Jewish state.

The measure included allowing in millions of dollars in aid from Hamas ally Qatar to pay for fuel for the territory’s sole power station and cash for salaries and grants to tens of thousands of needy families.

The truce has also seen Israel expand the distance it allows Gaza fishermen out into the Mediterranean — although it reduces it or even cuts it to zero in response to violence from the enclave.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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