Netanyahu Tried to Scare Off Ministers to Get Gaza Occupation Off the Table

Ministers present at 'intimidation meeting' say they were told potential long-term operation would cost hundreds of Israeli lives and billions of shekels.

A cabinet meeting on July 31, 2014.
A cabinet meeting on July 31, 2014. Sitting: Ministers Yuval Steinitz and Moshe Ya'alon. Standing: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF chief Benny Gantz. Moti Milrod

High-ranking ministers were recently exposed to the nightmare scenario that would result from an Israeli effort to recapture the Gaza Strip, as part of an attempt to get ministers to reject even considering such an objective, high-ranking ministers have said.

"The demonstration was completely biased and aimed at causing us to think that we must not even think about such a move," said a minister who attended the four-hour "intimidation meeting," as some cabinet members referred to it.

The ministers were told that nearly every home in Gaza's large cities would be booby-trapped and entire streets would be lined with explosive devices aimed at killing Israeli forces. Under this scenario, hundreds of Israeli troops would be killed during the months it would take to capture the Strip and the years it would take to clear out weapons and terrorists from Gaza, in an operation that would cost billions of shekels.

Israel Defense Forces officers told the ministers such an operation would have massive civil and humanitarian ramifications and said Israel would ultimately have to take responsibility for caring for Gaza residents.

The meeting came after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz made comments supporting a total military takeover of the Gaza Strip. Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan also repeatedly called for reoccupying Gaza.

"At that meeting they described to us scenarios that seemed like they were taken from World War II," said a minister who was at the meeting. "It was clear that the meeting was intended to take the occupation of the Strip off the table."

Reports about the ministers unanimously voting against occupying Gaza came out a few days later, the minister said, adding that he and his colleagues thought the Prime Minister's Office was behind the reports.

Those reports appeared to be based on a question the minister said was posed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the end of the meeting, when the prime minister asked if there were any ministers who supported occupying Gaza and suggested a vote. The ministers did not hold a vote, but no one expressed support for it in response to Netanyahu's question, the participant said.