Netanyahu: Palestinians Must Choose Between Hamas and Peace

Prime minister says Israel has no problem with the Palestinian Authority entering Gaza, but with Hamas entering the West Bank.

Channel 2 screenshot

The Palestinians must understand that the choice is between "Hamas or peace," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, adding that Israel cannot make peace with a party that wants its destruction.

In interviews with Channel 2 and Channel 10, Netanyahu also responded to criticism from his ministers for not bringing the cease-fire to a cabinet vote, saying that "I was authoraized to make the decision on the cease-fire. In their hearts, some of the ministers are happy I didn't bring it to a vote."

A "new reality" has set in the Middle East, the prime minister said, and in light of new threats in the region, countries now see Israel as a potential partner and not as an enemy.

When asked about the Palestinian unity government between Fatah and Hamas, Netanyahu said: "We have no problem with the Palestinian Authority entering Gaza, we have a problem with Hamas entering the West Bank." Netanyahu added that he has not spoken directly with President Mahmoud Abbas during Operation Protective Edge, but that "there is communication all the time. We are open to peace negotiations. We can't make peace with those who want us eliminated."

Hamas, Netanyahu said, did not achieve any of its demands, including a port, an airport, prisoner release and salaries.

During the interviews, Netanyahu cautioned against early elections, and dismissed claims that the public is losing faith in the political leadership. He also said the security budget must be increased.

Ya'alon touts victory

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Friday that Israel's operation in Gaza ended with military and diplomatic victory for Israel, while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sounded more skeptical about the campaign's success.

In an interview on Channel 2, Ya'alon said that "in military terms, the victory is clear. In every confrontation that the Israel Defense Forces was in, it defeated the other side." He added that Israel destroyed Hamas' attack tunnel network, hit a number of rocket launch sites, weapons caches and headquarters, as well as carrying out targeted assassinations.

Lieberman, meanwhile, said in an interview with Channel 1 that it wasn't enough that Hamas has been impaired. Asked whether Israel won the conflict, Lieberman said: "The fact that this question is being asked is not a good sign. When the outcome is clear, it isn't usually asked.

"The fact that a 20,000-strong terror group has endured for 50 days against the strongest army in the Middle East and has stayed in power – it bothers me very much."