It's Israel's Interest to Provide Power to Gaza, but Not While Hamas Digs Terror Tunnels, Israeli Army Chief Says

Gadi Eisenkot says situation in Gaza in 'explosive,' says more focus should be put on confronting Iran and not just destroying ISIS

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot speaking in Herzilya on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.
David Bachar

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot expressed lukewarm support Tuesday for cuts to Gaza's electricity supply that have reduced residents to just two-and-a-half hours of electricity a day following a a decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stop paying Israel for electricity supplied to the Strip.

"We have an interest that there will be electricity in the Strip 24 hours-a-day, that there will be clean water and employment," said Eisenkot. "That's an Israeli interest. But it seems to me like a paradox that we would pay for the... electricity while they make resources available to dig tunnels into Israeli territory," he said, referencing Hamas' terror tunnels.

The Israel Electric Corporation provides the Strip with power, which is paid by the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank. In one of several steps to pressure Gaza's Hamas rulers, Abbas recently decided to stop payments for Gaza's electricity, prompting Israel to drastically reduce the flow rather than cover the difference itself.

Eiskenkot called the situation in Gaza "explosive" and said "Hamas is standing an intersection: Will it be a responsible ruler or a terror organization that only sees through the shaft of the tunnel?"

The chief of staff has faced criticism recently for advising that the electric supply but cut to Gaza in accordance with Abbas' decision to cease payments for it.

Eisenkot's comments were made at a conference in Herzilya, addressing the security situation in the region and focusing particularly on Iran and its attempts to create a sphere of control across the Middle East to reach Lebanon. 

"The current focus on defeating ISIS misses the point. There is an interest to push Iran back to within Iran and reduce its regional influence," said Eisenkot. 

He was also the first Israeli official to address Iran's missile strike toward Syria on Monday, saying, "The operation achievement is smaller than what's portrayed in the media, but it is meant to express something, even though they were far from accurate strikes."

Haaretz reported Tuesday that five of the seven rockets fired by Iran missed their targets and some even fell in Iraq.