Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett spokesperson

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) warned Sunday evening that efforts to avoid a conflict with the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza could potentially lead to a larger war with the terror group.

Bennett made the comments at a ceremony marking the opening of the new medical department at Ariel University, in Samaria.

Amid efforts to avoid further escalations between the Gaza-based terror group Hamas and Israel following a spate of rocket attacks and attempted border infiltrations, Bennett warned that Hamas would not adhere to any ceasefire agreements. Rather, Bennett argued, Hamas is looking to pressure Israeli leaders into taking the path of least resistance, by extracting concessions in exchange for a temporary ceasefire.

“About a hundred years ago, the Italian mafia in the US started to really take off,” Bennett said Sunday evening. “The mafia came up with a racket: they’d go after a business: they’d start causing damage to the business, torching it, threatening its employees, and then they’d come over and offer ‘protection’ to the owner of the business in exchange for a payment. They called it ‘protection money’.”

“This is exactly what Hamas is trying to do right now to Israel,” continued Bennett. “For the past 140 days, Hamas has burned our fields and our towns, fired hundreds of rockets, used snipers on our troops, and then comes and says that ‘we’ll stop the terrorism if you give in to our demands’.”

“Anyone who gives in and pays the ‘protection’ will lead us to war. Israel must not give in to the ‘protection’ threats of Hamas. We must do the very opposite: Hamas needs to understand that it will pay a very real price on every terror attack it commits against Israeli civilians. Hamas needs to be too afraid to attack us.”

Bennett has over the past few days criticized efforts by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to reach an agreement with Hamas leaders for a ceasefire.

Liberman has pushed for a ceasefire agreement in the hopes of reversing the rise in tensions along the Gaza border, following months of arson attacks by Hamas terrorists, the launching of dozens of rockets and mortars into Israeli territory, and the murder of an IDF soldier by a Hamas sniper.