Israel and Hamas share common interests, and the latter must stay in power in the Gaza Strip to prevent the enclave descending into chaos, an Israeli general was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Major-General Sami Turgeman, who as commander of Israel’s forces outside Gaza had a leading role in last year’s war with Hamas, cast the group in a pragmatic light in remarks reported in the local media.
By doing so, he appeared to take a softer public line towards Hamas than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has likened the movement to Islamic State insurgents sweeping Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
Speaking to the heads of Israeli villages on the Gaza periphery on Monday, Turgeman said Hamas seeks stability and “does not want global jihad.”
“Israel and Hamas have shared interests, including in the current situation, which is quiet and calm and growth and prosperity,” said the general.
“There is no substitute for Hamas as sovereign in the Strip. The substitute is the IDF and chaotic rule … and then the security situation would be much more problematic,” Turgeman said.
An Israeli military spokesman did not contest the accuracy of the quotes. Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment.
Without responding directly to Turgeman’s remarks, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “the ball is in the Israeli court. Hamas is willing to maintain the ceasefire because it is in the interest of our people in Gaza.”
Turgeman predicted a continued build-up of Hamas’s armed capabilities and renewed Gaza fighting “every few years” if Israel did not find a way to work with Hamas.