Bennett Calls to Unilaterally End Gaza Operation
As the Security Cabinet meeting in the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem ended Friday morning, Cabinet member and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) called for Israel to unilaterally end Operation Protective Edge.
The minister said Israel should stop the operation without an agreement with Hamas, allowing the IDF to continue actions against the terror tunnels in Gaza while easing the blockade of the Hamas terror enclave.
Bennett claimed that the unilateral opening of border crossings between Israel and Gaza, as well as the expansion of the Gaza naval fishing zone, could give Israel international legitimization. He argued that such concessions made unilaterally would not be as damaging to Israel politically and militarily as if they were made in a truce deal with Hamas.
"If Hamas will understand that we have durability, it will end in days," Bennett said, according to Walla!. "The situation between Israel and Hamas is completely asymmetrical - they lost most of their tunnels and rockets, but the IDF can continue and increase its response power."
Bennett added "we won't make an agreement that harms our right to damage the terror tunnels," noting on the extensive web of tunnels exposed during Operation Protective Edge that were lethally employed by the terrorists against the IDF.
Those tunnels were reportedly intended to be used in a plan to launch a massacre on communities near Gaza on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. While over 30 tunnels were destroyed in the operation, those include only the tunnels found by the IDF up till now.
The call for unilateral action comes after Bennett on Thursday likewise called to "open up the crossings into Gaza for humanitarian equipment, and respond with disproportionate force to any fire on the southern communities."
While Bennett's call appears to basically signify a return to the status quo before the operation, aside from the concessions and continued ability to attack terror tunnels, around 10,000 Israelis poured into downtown Tel Aviv late Thursday, calling for the government to end the attacks from Gaza once and for all by taking decisive action.
The call for a unilateral end also contrasts to Bennett's statements last month, urging that Israel continue the operation until all terror tunnels are destroyed. His new position would appear to support ending the operation, while maintaining the right to attack the tunnels when found.
The war is over?
Bennett's comments come the same Friday that Islamic Jihad second-in-command Ziad Nahala said the war with Israel is "behind us." The night before, Nahala said Egypt talked Israel out of its security demands to disarm Gaza, end the smuggling into the Hamas enclave and the local weapons production, as well as have the terror tunnels disclosed.
An Israeli proposal presented to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas and Islamic Jihad delegation in Cairo was reported by the Palestinian Arab Ma'an News Agency on Friday.
According to it, Israel stipulated that border crossings between it and Gaza would be opened, but only with a detailed agreement with the PA. The move apparently echoes an Egyptian offer to have the PA monitor the Rafah Crossing to Sinai.
The reported proposal also would have Israel gradually cancel the "periphery" no-entry zone on the Gaza side of the border, meant to prevent terrorist infiltration, and supply aid to the PA in rebuilding Gaza.