Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz spoke at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference. The following is the full transcript of the cabinet minister's speech:
Following the recent events in the south: the violence along the fence, the burning of fields and the firing of hundreds of rockets at Israeli communities, we are now closer to a no-choice war against Hamas in Gaza.
We must strike hard to restore deterrence. Unfortunately, the resignation of Israel’s defense minister also contributed to Hamas' sense of victory. Yahya Sinwar’s threats to fire missiles on Tel Aviv show this very clearly.
As far as the Israeli government is concerned, Sderot and Ashkelon are just like Tel Aviv. Any attack on Israeli soil must be met with a tough response. We must not reach a situation in which there is a balance of deterrence between the State of Israel and a terrorist organization like Hamas, whose sole aim is our destruction.
After Operation Tzuk Eytan [Defensive Edge], when Hamas was at the height of its weakness and completely isolated from the Arab world, I called for a strategic decision to be taken regarding Israel’s policy towards Gaza – to disengage from any civilian responsibility for Gaza - no fuel, no electricity and certainly no salaries for members of Hamas.
This would have been a move to full security deterrence, like the situation which exists on our border with Hezbollah in Lebanon and on our border with Syria - zero tolerance for any violation of Israeli sovereignty. If Sinwar, or Haniyeh, were to fire a bullet or a rocket at a soldier or an Israeli citizen, they would pay with their heads, like Nasrallah in Lebanon who is today hiding in a bunker.
There is no political solution to the Gaza issue and there is no such thing as a stable arrangement with Hamas. Israel must strike at Hamas in order to restore the deterrence that has been eroded.
Today, the political and military circles are close to reaching the same conclusion.
As for Iran and Hizbollah - economic pressure is the strongest and most effective weapon against them.
The Americans have the advantage in this area. The sanctions are hurting the Iranian economy, public protest in Iran against the regime and its regional policy continues, and the Europeans are unable to stop the sanctions or to set up a mechanism to bypass them.
The pressure on Iran in the nuclear field must not be eased in exchange for concessions in other areas or arenas. The Iranian nuclear threat is the biggest threat.
As for the region - there is progress, as could be seen in the recent visits of Prime Minister Netanyahu and myself to Oman.
In between regional security and intelligence cooperation, which already exists, and the prospect of future regional peace, we are advancing regional cooperation in various civilian areas, from commercial aviation to the “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative.
This initiative, aimed at connecting the Mediterranean with the Arab Gulf through Israel as a land bridge and Jordan as a regional transportation hub, is backed by the U.S. and is getting more and more support and traction in and outside the region.
It is an initiative that goes beyond ideological differences. It doesn’t contradict past or future agreements, and it can be advanced alongside them, for the benefit of all sides.
The pragmatic Arab states in the region recognize Israel’s usefulness in the security as well as civilian fields, and we, for our part, should conduct a policy of normalization from a position of strength.