Senior Israeli Official: We're Acting to Obtain Real Cease-fire With Hamas, if Successful We'll Move on to Next Stage

Official says Israel wants to see real arrangement in place ■ When asked why Israeli officials neglect to comment publicly on cease-fire reports, official says: 'It's not right to comment on every move'

Palestinian protesters hurling stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza border, August 24, 2018.
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

LITHUANIA -  A senior Israeli official told journalists covering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's diplomatic trip to Lithuania on Friday evening that Israel was operating to obtain a real cease-fire with Hamas and should one be achieved, "we will move on to the next stage."

The official said that "there is no arrangement yet, but could there be? Yes."

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The official was referring to the fact that while Israel and Hamas have reached a cease-fire, Jerusalem is interested in a wider agreement to end tensions with Gaza. 

According to the official, Israel's goal "is to reach a real truce. Have we achieved it? Not yet. There's a clear trend of less [clashes with Gaza] but we can't advance anywhere without this being achieved."

The official said the current calm "may be temporary" and that it exists due to "huge blows Hamas has suffered. We crushed them."

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"Talks with Hamas through Egypt are not new. We had them during Protective Edge [the 2014 campaign in Gaza]," the official said, referring to ongoing talks being mediated by the UN's Mideast envoy Nicolkay Mladenov and Egypt. "But if they want a port and airport and heaven knows what else, we say: stop the fire first," the official continued.

"If we don't reach a cease-fire I know what will come next," the official added. "But if we can reach a cease-fire and solve the humanitarian problems in Gaza, it's preferable."

The official noted that all previous rounds of talks included negotiations over the establishment of ports in the Strip and Qatari financial assistance, but no agreements were reached on those topics.

"As far as I'm concerned," the official continued, "Qatar can fund their [the Gazans'] salaries. But we're not there yet."

When asked by Haaretz why other officials did not publicly comment on the cease-fire, the official answered that it was "not right to publicly comment on each move."

Earlier Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he is not involved in an agreement with Hamas, adding that he "does not believe" in a deal with the Gaza faction. Lieberman made the announcement while speaking with leader of regional councils in the Gaza border area.

"Regarding all the stories about an agreement, I have nothing to do with it; I am not involved in the whole issue. I do not believe in it, the only agreement is the reality on the ground," he said.