Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that another round of fighting with Hamas “is a question of when, not ‘if,’ and added that Israel must aim in the coming conflict to remove the terror group from power once and for all.
Speaking at a memorial service for Ella Abukasis, a 17-year-old girl that died when she was hit by a Kassam rocket from Gaza in 2005 as she tried to shield her 10-year-old brother from the attack, Bennet said that Israel must not be the only country in the world in which people walking down the street do so at their own peril because of a constant threat of missile attacks.
“This time we must score a definitive victory,” Bennett said, and not be satisfied with a tie that leaves Hamas able to rearm and plan the next round at its leisure”. “Only by completely defeating the enemy can we put an end to never ending merry go round of attacks and cease fires.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a decorated former General (in 2010 former Defense Minister Ehud Barak nominated him as the next CoS, but was forced to cancel the appointment after Gallant got mired in a scandal over illegal additions he had made to his house) said that there was a high probability there would be another round of fighting with Hamas in the Spring or early summer.
Both Hamas and the IDF have said that they do not want yesterday’s rocket attack, and the IDF’s response to presage an escalation of hostilities, but should that occur the conflict would take place under vastly different circumstances than the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense or the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. For one thing, former US President Barack Obama, widely seen in Jerusalem as supportive of Hamas, has been replaced by Donald J. Trump. While the latter has yet to formulate clear policies vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinians, it is nearly certain that he would not be critical of Israeli excesses in the event of a broad military response against Hamas rocket attacks.
In addition, senior members of the governing coalition, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have called openly and repeatedly for regime change in Gaza. If, in the past calls for utterly destroying Hamas and replacing it were limited to the outer fringe of the right-wing, now they are part of mainstream Israeli thinking.
Until now Prime Minister Netanyahu resisted calls to topple Hamas, partly out of concerns from the international community and partly because of IDF intelligence estimates that say if Hamas goes, it is more likely to be replaced by even more radical and militant Salafi groups, not moderates. In all three conflicts, Netanyahu’s stated goal has been “to restore quiet to Israeli citizens.”
By: Andrew Friedman
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