Israel Closer Than Ever to Controlling Part or All of Gaza, Strategic Affairs Minister Says

Gilad Erdan also says he will ask U.S. lawmakers to use anti-boycott laws against Airbnb following settlement ban ■ Netanyahu tells ministers: 'Maintain the line' set by cabinet

Palestinian protester in the Gaza Strip, October 19, 2018
Khalil Hamra,AP

Israel is "closer than ever" to controlling part or all of Gaza, Strategic Affair minister Gilad Erdan said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem, Erdan said that "moving from defense to offense against Hamas means targeted assassinations of terror leaders in Hamas' military wing."

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This, Erdan says, "means being ready to take control of the Gaza Strip and hold it until we dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, Today we are closer than ever – since the devastating disengagement plan – to having to control parts of the Strip, or all of it."

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Following Erdan's comments, several other ministers voiced a similar statements. At the same conference, Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant said Hamas politburo chief Yayha Sinwar's "days are numbered." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then promptly asked the ministers to scale back the rhetoric and  "maintain the line" set by the government cabinet.

Erdan also addressed Airbnb's recent decision to bar listings of homes in West Bank settlements, saying "anybody who supports Israel should stop using Airbnb and tap other services."

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, September 13, 2018
\ Moti Milrod
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The company's decision, Erdan said Tuesday, is based on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 passed during the term of Barack Obama as U.S. president, calling for distinction between Israel and Judea and Samaria, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights; and an international blacklist of companies operating beyond the Green Line, which was compiled and managed  by the UN Human Rights Council.

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The decision Obama spearheaded at the UN Security Council helped legitimize the Human Rights Council's decision to compile this international blacklist, Erdan said.

The policy of distinguishing between Israel and the West Bank is discriminatory and achieves an opposite, and dangerous, effect, the minister said.

"The purpose of the policy is to undermine the very activity that could be a basis for sustainable peace. If the Human Rights Council does publish the blacklist of companies doing business beyond the Green Line, the U.S. and other democracies should react by halting all funding for the UN until it ceases its anti-Israel position," Erdan said.

On Airbnb's decision specifically, Erdan said that given the company's decision to capitulate to the pressure of the Human Rights Council and BDS, Israel is considering its moves.

"On the one hand we will try to explain to the company why the decision is wrong and harmful," Erdan said. "I, parallel, we will examine other forms of action. I mean to ask senior Americans to consider using the existing laws against discrimination and boycotts. The states and their employees should not be doing business with companies that discriminate against Israel. We will also study whether this is discrimination based on nationality, which is prohibited under the law in France and elsewhere. Under Israeli law, Israelis could consider suing against the decision."

Yisrael Katz, the minister of transportation and of strategic affairs, told the conference: "Following the recent events in the south – the violence on the [Gaza border] fence, the burning of the fields, the firing of hundreds of rockets at Israeli communities – we are closer than ever to a war with Hamas over which there is no alternative. We must land the strongest blow possible to restore a situation of deterrence."

Referring to last week's resignation of Defense Minister Avidgor Lieberman, Katz said it "contributed to Hamas' victory" in this month's round of fighting in the south and added that the situation in the Gaza Strip "has no political solution and there is no such thing as a stable agreement with Hamas."

Speaking about Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Galant, who is a reserve major general and a member of the security cabinet, told the conference: "I'll say this as clearly as possible. Yayha Sinwar's days are numbered. He won't end his life in an old-age home. If [they] want war, we will defeat them. If [they] want to talk, we will speak with them. There will be another large [military] operation in Gaza. We will define when and how. We won't allow Hamas to run this."

If there is a reason for it, Israel will carry out such a major operation and win, Galant said, adding that Hamas usually provides such reasons. "In my opinion, it's not to Israel's benefit but if it's necessary, then we will do it," but said war was the last option. Noting that he knows Gaza well from his early army service and up to his service as a major general, he said there is no comparing Israel's strength with that of Hamas.

From a broader perspective when it comes to the peace process with the Palestinians, Galant said: "There is no Palestinian partner. There hasn't been a Palestinian partner for the past 100 years now. Strong control over Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is a clear Israeli security interest. We cannot give away a centimeter of the Western part of the Jordan Valley to anyone. There is no alternative to full Israeli control from the Mediterranean to the Jordan."

The housing and construction minister also called Defense Minister Lieberman's resignation a mistake and said he believes Lieberman stepped down for political reasons rather than over security issues.