Rivlin: Return of Israeli Soldiers' Bodies Is Precondition for Rebuilding Gaza Strip

'We are not complacent, we know that 2014's Operation Protective Edge probably won't be the last war,' says Israeli president, blaming conflict completely on Hamas

Benjamin Netanyahu and Reuven Rivlin mark the third anniversary of the 2014 Gaza conflict, July 13, 2017.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Reuven Rivlin mark the third anniversary of the 2014 Gaza conflict, July 13, 2017. Emil Salman

At a ceremony Thursday evening marking the third anniversary of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, President Reuven Rivlin declared that the return of missing soldiers from Gaza is a precondition for rebuilding the Gaza Strip.

“The rebuilding of Gaza requires the return of our sons and the cessation of all hostilities with Israel,” Rivlin said at the ceremony, held in the new memorial hall on Mount Herzl, and attended by dignitaries and the families of those killed in the Gaza war. “As long as Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction, that does not respect human life, that does not respect human rights, a brutal and murderous organization, runs Gaza – Gaza will not be rehabilitated.”

The president went on to say, “We are not complacent, we know that Protective Edge probably won’t be the last war. We are fighting a brutal and extreme terror organization and we are prepared to respond to any scenario and any threat.”

“In Protective Edge we were fighting to protect our home, our kindergartens and schools, our roads, our orchards and fields, on the home front and at the battlefront. It was a war over our everyday life. A moral, just campaign by a sovereign state seeking to defend its citizens,” the president said emphatically, citing the dozens of rockets that were being fired daily at southern communities, the Hamas tunnels that were being dug to attack schools and libraries and dining halls.

“We must continue to study the painful lessons and we will never forget the contribution of the army and the security forces and of the civilians who showed so much fortitude for years and stood firm and strong on the home front,” said Rivlin.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the negotiations for the return of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers being held in Gaza. “Our commitment to bring home [the bodies of soldiers] Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin is as strong as ever. We are not relenting in this sacred mission – including in recent days. The same goes for [civilians] Avera Mengistu and Hisham Asad, Israeli civilians who are being held in the Gaza Strip, by a cruel enemy.”

Netanyahu also said there has not been such quiet on the Gaza border since the Six-Day War. “This quiet was achieved thanks to our boys. We continue to bolster our capabilities both defensively and offensively, with the purchase of missile intercept systems, of advanced weaponry, and in many other ways. We will not accept any infringement on our sovereignty. Not in the south, not in the north, not anywhere.”