I can’t promise long-term quiet, Netanyahu acknowledges

Hamas suffered a near-fatal military and diplomatic blow during Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night, but he acknowledged that he could not guarantee sustained quiet for Israel — the key goal of the operation. He said the Islamist group had achieved none of its stated objectives after 50 days of fighting, assessed it would be wary of initiating another round of violence, and indicated that planned indirect negotiations on a long-term arrangement next month might go nowhere.

Netanyahu warned that if Hamas were to resume attacks against Israel in any form, the IDF would strike back “sevenfold.”

“What we have is a great military achievement and a great diplomatic achievement,” Netanyahu said in a press conference in Jerusalem, alongside Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. “Hamas was badly beaten and received none of the conditions it had demanded in return for a ceasefire. [Hamas] demanded a seaport and did not get one; an airport – not accepted; a release of Shalit deal prisoners — not accepted. [Hamas] demanded to have a Qatari brokered deal — not accepted; Turkish mediation – not accepted.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (C) and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (R) at a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (C) and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (R) at a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He stated that Israel, as opposed to Hamas, had received comprehensive legitimacy from the international community to carry out attacks against terror targets in the Palestinian enclave. The IDF, he specified, destroyed “terror tunnels” and rocket launchers, killed some 1,000 fighters, and targeted many command-and-control centers in the Gaza Strip.

“It is too early to determine whether we achieved our goal of a prolonged calm, but the damage to Hamas increases the chances that such a goal has been reached,” he said. “Hamas was surprised by the unity of Israel’s citizens; we showed that we will not tolerate a drizzle [of rockets] on any part of the State of Israel.”

“I said that attrition would be met with a pounding,” Netanyahu recalled, and thus, when Hamas broke the previous truce last Tuesday, “the terror towers fell and Hamas understood that the price was very high.” Netanyahu was referring to Israel’s bombing of high-rises in Gaza in the final days of the operation, where Hamas was said to have command centers.

Asked why Israel had not succeed in completely rooting out Hamas, Netanyahu stated that fighting a terror organization required patience and resolve, and presented serious difficulties for democratic states in particular. The US had failed to extinguish Al-Qaida, he noted.

Addressing rumors that much to the cabinet’s discontent, the current truce was accepted without a vote by ministers, Netanyahu said the cabinet backed the Egyptian ceasefire proposal from the get-go. Later, the cabinet voted to authorize the prime minister and defense minister to accept ceasefires on their own, without a cabinet vote, he added.

Netanyahu said that if a long-term arrangement were to be presented to Israel, the cabinet would be informed of it. However, the prime minister cast doubt on such an arrangement ever materializing.

“It’s not clear there will be [a long-term negotiated deal],” he said. “[But] the talks will begin in a month.”

The fact is, he reiterated, “Hamas abandoned all its demands” and signed an open-ended ceasefire “without preconditions.”

— Read Adiv Sterman’s full report here.

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