Yuval Steinitz
Yuval SteinitzIsrael news photo: file

Minister Yuval Steinitz of Likud warned Sunday that Israel may be forced to retake control of Gaza and topple the Hamas regime. In an interview with goverment-run Voice of Israel Radio, Steinitz said that Israel “will not tolerate” Hamas's growing rocket arsenal.

The minister's warning came two days after two Israeli soldiers were killed in a clash with terrorists in Gaza. Gaza terrorists have increased the frequency of their rocket attacks on southern Israel in recent weeks; several days ago, a rocket killed a Thai worker on a kibbutz [communal settlement].

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005; in 2007, Hamas seized control of the region. In late 2008 Israel carried out a major counter-terror offensive in Gaza after increasingly frequent rocket attacks killed several civilians. The three-week offensive succeeded in greatly reducing the number of attacks from Gaza.

Steinitz also discussed the United States's pressure on Israel regarding housing for Jews in Jerusalem. America's criticism of Israel is not advancing peace, but rather, is having the opposite effect, he stated.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has already made two significant gestures to the Palestinian Authority, by freezing construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria and by working to improve the PA economy, Steinitz said. By continuing to pressure Israel, the US is giving the impression that it is less friendly to Israel than it was in the past, which encourages the PA to up its demands, he explained.