Israel has considered retaking Gaza in order to install a new government there, but to do that, it needs cooperation from an Arab country that is willing to help set up an administration there – and so far, “no Arab country is interested,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday. “We hit [Hamas] as needed – obviously there can be no agreement with someone who wants to kill you. I don’t know if we will be able to achieve long-term quiet, but one thing I do know – I am not going to start unnecessary wars.”
Netanyahu made the comments in a wide-ranging interview on Reshet Bet Thursday morning, before boarding a plane that took him to Moscow, where he is to meet Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Asked about the security situation in southern Israel, Netanyahu said that the question of what to do with Gaza was a burning one.
“I am willing to pay a political price when needed” when it came to a balanced response to violence from Gaza, he said. “We may find that we need to undertake a major military operation in Gaza, but that is a last option” – because, among other reasons, it would fall to Israel to administer the lives of some two million Gazans – which Netanyahu is not interested in doing. He added that Israel had sought to find an Arab country to take responsibility for Gaza – but none of them were interested, either. Netanyahu did not name the countries he sought the cooperation of.
Unfortunately, that leaves residents of the Gaza border area holding the bag – and Netanyahu believes that his policies have been helpful to them. “All of the options are on the table – including retaking Gaza – and they are decided upon based on what is best for Israel. We have now surrounded Gaza with thousands of soldiers, and as a result Hamas and Islamic Jihad have moved their rioters away from the border fence.”
Netanyahu also discussed the return of the remains of IDF soldier Zechariah Baumel, Hy”d, praising the efforts of security and intelligence forces that contributed to his return. “They displayed unmatched bravery, and I am happy they succeeded in the end,” Netanyahu said. He added that charges from Blue and White that the timing of the announcement – six days before the elections – was “cheap electioneering” by Netanyahu were “utter nonsense. The revelations were determined by security issues that took place within the 48 hours before the announcement,’ he added.
Regarding his race with Benny Gantz, he said that the comments he and the Likud have made about his Blue and White rival – that Gantz was unfit for the office of prime minister because of personality issues – did not cross any lines. “I said that he was truly a leftist, and that is absolutely correct. He supported the Iran nuclear deal, he said that he would prefer to endanger IDF soldiers rather than Palestinians. That is wrong, as far as I am concerned. I never said that he was ‘unstable,’ I said he was collapsing under the pressure of the campaign. I was not talking about his term as IDF Chief of Staff. I think the move from the army to politics, and especially political leadership, is very difficult, and it would be hard for anyone to stand up to that pressure,” Netanyahu said.