Minister Gideon Sa'ar
Minister Gideon Sa'arIsrael National News

New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar spoke with Arutz Sheva - Israel National News and called to increase pressure on Hamas, including by withholding humanitarian aid to Gaza, to bring about the release of all remaining hostages.

“We need to increase pressure, in every sense, militarily and otherwise, and that must be our short-term focus. It's necessary for all the goals of the war. I think that the ability to reach a prisoner exchange agreement that we know we can live is conditional on increasing the pressure on Hamas,“ Sa'ar said.

He spoke about his meetings with the families of hostages. ”I meet nearly every day with families of hostages. I think that I have met with most of them already, and these meetings are not simple. I understand their feelings entirely, and I tell them the truth, and present them with my opinions and the situation as I see it.”

“We need to understand that these are civilians who were abducted and effectively abandoned on the front. The state is obligated to rescue them. True, I don't believe that this should be at any price. I also believe that someone saying at any price only raises the price, and in doing so pushes the deal farther away and instead of bringing it closer. Even so, we cannot forget that we have an obligation to these people,” he emphasized.

Sa’ar commented on the protests at the Kerem Shalom border crossing and Ashdod port against allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. He said that he had been involved in the subject and clarified in the appropriate forums that there needed to be a meaningful change. “Check what President Biden said when this subject came up - he said “If we see Hamas taking control of humanitarian aid, we will end it immediately.” This means that the American statement at the time was extremely clear. I'm working to bring about a change. Security officials, including in the IDF, are exploring other options - How will we ensure that aid, including food and medicines, do not reach Hamas? Hamas uses them to strengthen itself. This essentially undermines one of the goals of the war, which is destroying Hamas.”

“As long as you can differentiate between terrorists and residents, you can say that you are besieging the terrorists. When you cannot do so, there are some things that become obligatory under International law. One thing that is clear, and was agreed upon by everyone, is that we cannot allow Hamas to take over humanitarian aid shipments,” the minister said.

He believes that the calls for early elections are unnecessary. “I do not believe that Israel needs to go to the polls right now. We are familiar with these processes, and they take half a year. That means that elections and coalition negotiations will continue until there is a new government. What will happen during that time? We will still be a country attacked on several fronts, and so I don't believe that is the right thing to do right now.”

“Do we need to have elections soon after the war? The answer is yes. I think that we need to let the public decide who will lead after what we endured on October 7th. Does that mean that we need to do it right now? I don't think so. There will come a time when we can go that route, and that is a critical route to repair Israeli society and our political system, but right now we are at war, and must focus on defeating the enemy.”

He also does not see leaving the government as the correct step. “The quotes that were published were imprecise, but it's true that I expressed my opinion that it was not correct to disperse the emergency government. I can also tell you that Blue and White did not express the opinion that we need to end our partnership in the fate of the country at this time. We were essentially in agreement that we need to strengthen Israel internally agains the external pressure being applied to israel.”

“Right now that is not being discussed, and I don't think that there is any disagreement between members of the National Unity party on that matter. If there should be reason in the future to reconsider that, we can always do so.”

Regarding the politics of ‘the day after’, Sa’ar stated: “I will talk about politics on the day after. Right now we are at war, and New Hope is a right-wing governmental party, in both parts - right-wing and governmental. These are our two values. We will deal with political problems when we can. If you ask me, that is the message Israel wants right now, nothing else.”

The Minister responded to claims from reservists that they are not being allowed to win the war. “At the end of the day, this war is a long one, and cannot be shortened, and it is important to see the outcome. The outcome must be that there will be no further cycles at the end of which Hamas will rule Gaza and it still has military forces that it can build up over time. This must end with Hamas surrendering. What is important right now is persistence and determination. How we do it can always be changed.”

“The government right now sees the situation clearly enough, that we need to increase the attack on Hamas, and we need to change the approach that I mentioned earlier about humanitarian aid. There is a military process happening in Khan Younis, but there are places we have not yet reached militarily. In terms of victory and defeating Hamas, if we’re not moving forward we're moving backwards,” the Minister added.

When asked his opinion about the rally to resettle Gaza this week, Sa’ar responded: “Israel is a democratic country, and you can express any opinion. It's easy for me to speak about this now, because I voted against the disengagement plan in the 16th Knesset in all the votes. Uprooting settlements was a serious mistake that Israel made in 2005, and I believe that time has only proved this claim to be true. There is a difference right now as to whether we're going to a military campaign or adding a goal that is not just controversial, but not supported by most of the public.”

“I think that we are at a stage where we need to unite around the goals of the war and remain in a place where we are united to achieve them. When there are members of the government going to participate in such a rally in which goals are presented that are not those of the war, that is incorrect. That is why I wasn't there,” he explained.

He believes the war must end with security control of Gaza in Israeli hands. “As when we enter Jenin, Shechem, and Tulkarm, when we need to arrest or kill someone, the same thing must be true of Gaza. We need to be constantly mowing the ‘grass of terror’ in Gaza.”

“From a civilian standpoint, we have no interest in ruling the Gaza strip, and I hope we will not reach such a state of affairs. I don't think that we need to provide a healthcare or welfare system for the Palestinians and Gaza, and I don't think that we have the money to do so. I hope that there will not be conditions that force us to do this. Generally speaking, I would prefer a local authority, with the caveat that it not support terror or incitement to the destruction of Israel or murder of Jews. The what here is more important than the who, though obviously not Hamas.”

Regarding National Secuirty Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s comments against US President Joe Biden, he said: “There are differences of opinion between us and the American administration, differences of opinion not only regarding tactical questions of running the war, but also regarding the subject of a Palestinian state.”

“I always saw a Palestinian state as a mistaken idea and a danger to Israel's security and future. There is a disagreement between us and the administration, and in this disagreement we need to know how to stand by our opinions regarding our values. There are times that I would say we can consider the American opinion. I believe that Minister Ben-Gvir made an error in that he got involved in internal American politics during an election year.”

Regarding whether he was surprised about the US imposing sanctions against settlers in Judea and Samaria, he said “ I believe that has been the direction of the American administration for some time, and I don't want to talk about the concrete step and also don't know what the suspects are thought to have done and what threshold of proof was needed against them. In general, we must say clearly that the vast majority of the settler population is not only patriotic, which we see in the massive price that a religious Zionist government in general and the Judea and Samaria settlements in particular are paying in fallen and wounded soldiers in this war, far more than their relative percentage of the population. This obliges us to say, first of all, thank you. We must say this to all soldiers of course, but we need to say it specifically to the residents of Judea and Samaria that have produced such a generation of soldiers.”

“Beyond that, not only is the population patriotic and devoted, it is also a law-abiding population. I don't say that there are no exceptions, and I don't say that those exceptions don't need to be dealt with. Israel is a law-abiding country and knows how to deal with lawbreakers. I would prefer that these subjects of dealing with lawbreakers among settlers be done by Israel. Israel is a law-abiding country with a rule of law that knows how to deal with such cases.”

Minister Sa’ar thinks that despite the different opinions within his party regarding a Palestinian state, there is one particular aspect that unites everyone. “New Hope, when it first began, made clear that it opposes any foreign sovereignty west of the Jordan, and that is something very important for our political approach. I can say that when we united with Blue and White in July 2022, the text of a political document between the two sides included the explicit opposition to a Palestinian state. In the same way, we oppose a bi-national state. That is a principle of ours.”