ANALYSIS:
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett changing the equation in war against Israel’s foes

Taking a page from President Trump's book, Defense Minister Bennett applying maximal pressure to the PA to end its support for terrorism.

Yochanan Visser,

Defense Minister Bennett
Defense Minister Bennett
Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry

Since he became Israel’s Defense Minister at the end of 2019, Naftali Bennett has introduced a new doctrine against the Palestinian Authority and their allies which is similar to the ‘maximal pressure’ campaign the US Administration of President Donald J. Trump is using against Iran.

At the end of December 2019 Bennett started his campaign against the Palestinian Arab’s leadership by freezing the transfer of NIS 650 million of taxes and import fees Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) annually.

This amount of money is roughly equal to the funds the PA sets apart for its pay to slay policy, the monthly stipends the PA uses to pay to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons and their families.

In 2019, for example, the PA paid 517.4 million Shekels to these terrorists and those who were released from an Israeli jail after serving their sentences.

Palestinian terrorists who have been sentenced to life in jail after they murdered Israelis get the highest salaries with most of them receiving up to NIS 12.000 per month which is an enormous amount of money for Palestinian Arabs living under the PA rule or that of Hamas in Gaza.

More than a week later Bennett decided to act against the rampant illegal Palestinian construction in the so-called C area in Judea and Samaria, the territory in the so-called West-Bank that was assigned to Israel under the Oslo-agreements.

Bennett appointed Kobi Eliraz an adviser on settlement issues to three other Israeli Defense Ministers to lead a task force that would take concrete action against the illegal buildings in the C-area which for a large part are funded by the European Union.

After explaining that the State of Israel had erred by not taking decisive action against those illegal building activities Bennett said “we are changing direction and embarking on a battle that Israel must win... The defense establishment will fight for this territory, and it is essential for someone to lead this campaign.”

In reaction to continuing Palestinian terror emanating from Gaza where Hamas and the Iranian supported and trained terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were launching incendiary balloons, mortar grenades and rockets at southern Israel Bennett took additional steps to increase the pressure on Hamas and PIJ.

The Israeli DM halted the export of dual-use materials to Gaza which could be used for Hamas’ developing missile production in the enclave and for the construction of additional terror tunnels as well as for civilian purposes.

Bennett also ended the long-standing Israeli policy of returning the bodies of terrorists who were killed after indulging in terror attacks against Israeli targets and later shortened the fishing zone opposite Gaza after Hamas tried to smuggle weapons and materials for the production of new rockets via the Mediterranean Sea.

The former high-tech entrepreneur also took additional economic measures against the PA after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas banned the import of Israeli calves to the territories under his control.

Bennett first halted the import of Palestinian agricultural products to Israel and on Sunday extended the ban to exports to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge Crossing.

Speaking during an election rally in a synagogue in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givat Shmuel, Bennett linked the continuing war between wars against Iran in Syria to the ongoing Palestinian terror-war against Israel.

He said that Iran was responsible for 70 percent of Israel’s security problems because the Islamic Republic is funding and training Hamas, PIJ and, Hezbollah terrorists while supplying them with weapons.

“We are losing our sons in 2014’s Protective Edge (the Third Gaza War), in the Second Lebanon War, in battles with Iran’s fingertips. And who is immune all the while? The head of the octopus,” Bennett told the crowd in Givat Shmuel.

The Israeli DM also announced a change in the Israeli policy versus the Iranian efforts to supply Hezbollah with sophisticated weapons and revealed that despite hundreds of aerial attacks by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) Israel had only targeted one in five Iranian weapon shipments to Hezbollah.

That would change now Bennett said and promised that the IAF was going to attack every transfer of weapons to Hezbollah by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Syria is a “destruction zone” that would become “Iran’s Vietnam” Bennett said while hinting that the IAF was responsible for the latest strike at Iranian forces in the Damascus area last week that reportedly killed 23 Iranians and members of Shiite militias in Syria.

The Israeli leader also revealed that Israel and the US have decided to divide Iran’s orbit into two large zones: one is Syria where the Israeli military is responsible for walking back Iran’s presence and influence while the US Army will act against Iran in Iraq that effectively has been turned into another Iranian proxy state.

Bennett then returned to the situation in southern Israel and said he wasn’t interested in another two- or three-day mini-war against the Palestinian terror groups there but was working on a "significant" military operation that would change the equation in Gaza.

Currently the IAF is targeting Hamas’ growing rocket production capabilities in Gaza after every attack with incendiary balloons or rocket and mortar launches from Gaza, according to Bennett who has also been responsible for the resumption of target assassinations against the leadership of the Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.

“Nobody in the Hamas leadership will remain immune,” Bennett warned.

In November, shortly after he entered office, Bennett together with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the assassination of PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza.

By ordering the assassination immediately after he entered the Defense Ministry as its new head Bennett showed he has a different view on the ongoing war against Israel’s foes and realizes his predecessors like Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman have been effectively undermining Israel’s deterrence by not making good on promises to liquidate terror chiefs.

Liberman infamously remained passive and didn’t make good on his promise to liquidate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh who he said would be dead within 48 hours after he assumed office in 2016.

Apparently, PA leader Abbas has also noticed someone is changing the equation in the Palestinian relationship with Israel.

For the first time since he was elected as PA President for a four-year term sixteen years ago Abbas, who currently is in Jordan ahead of a trip to the US where he wants to launch a “diplomatic Intifada” against the new American plan to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict, fears Israel will ban him from returning to Ramallah.

Watching Bennett’s latest moves, he could be right.




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