Netanyahu Hails 'Great Diplomatic Blow' To Hamas
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night attempted to respond to the outpouring of criticism for his unilateral decision the night before, in which he sealed a ceasefire deal with the terrorist group Hamas.
"With the establishment of the ceasefire I can say that this is a great military and diplomatic achievement," claimed Netanyahu, accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu stated "Hamas has been hit critically and didn't receive any of the demands it set."
Palestinian Authority (PA) officials revealed that in the deal Gaza received an immediate ease of the blockade and an opening of its fishing zone. Discussions on the Hamas demand for a sea and airport, as well as a swap of hundreds of terrorists for the bodies of IDF soldiers Second Lt. Hadar Goldin and First Sgt. Oron Shaul hy''d, are to be held within a month.
The IDF destroyed over 30 terror tunnels that were lethally used against Israel in the operation, although it remains unclear if more yet undiscovered tunnels remain.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu said "when the mission of destroying the tunnels was completed, we pulled the forces back so as to prevent Hamas from killing our soldiers or abducting them - goals they were waiting for. Still we continued to strike from the air and killed around 1,000 terrorists of the enemy - including officials in the command echelon."
"The damage that Hamas absorbed is a blow that it hasn't absorbed in its history - a military and diplomatic blow," commented Netanyahu. "It demanded a seaport, an airport, the release of (Gilad) Shalit prisoners, Qatari and Turkish intermediaries - and didn't get them."
Many have noted that Israeli didn't receive its lone demand in the ceasefire either, namely the disarmament of Gaza, which is to be discussed in negotiations within a month.
When confronted with the fact that he did not topple the Hamas terrorist regime, something he vowed to do while campaigning in 2009 if faced with constant rocket fire, Netanyahu said "even the US didn't topple Al Qaeda. To topple a terror organization is not simple."
Speaking about the road forward in terms of security, Netanyahu said "we will not suffer a drip (of rockets) on any part of the state of Israel, and as we've responded - we will respond even stronger."
Despite Netanyahu's positive spin on the campaign, Gaza Belt leaders slammed the ceasefire as surrender.
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni stated "we did not lose 64 fighters and five civilians, including a four-year-old boy, for this 'achievement'. We did not sit in the shelters and protected spaces for almost two months for this 'achievement'. We did not take a harsh economic blow, in which businesses collapsed, for this 'achievement'. We expected a lot more than this.”
Even Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), a close confidante of Netanyahu, told BBC on Wednesday that the operation was "for nothing," and that Israel paid a "heavy price."
Several ministers in the Security Cabinet opposed the deal, but were not given the opportunity to vote on it. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) on Wednesday voiced his opposition to the ceasefire, saying Israel is in danger as long as Hamas exists.
Former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari likewise attacked the deal on Tuesday night. Quoting Netanyahu, who recently said "Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas," Ben-Ari stated "that means that Netanyahu held negotiations with ISIS."