Netanyahu Says Israel Has 'Changed the Equation' With Hamas

'The Gaza operation achieved its goals of inflicting a severe blow to Hamas,' Netanyahu said, adding that 'not all is yet known to the public,' but other officials at security cabinet meeting censured the operation

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2021.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2021.Credit: POOL/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel's latest operation in Gaza has succeeded in dramatically setting back Hamas, but some sources in the security establishment have expressed doubts about the success of the 11-day operation.

Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said Israel has "changed the equation" with Hamas, but said that the "public and Hamas don’t know everything...the entirety of our achievements will be revealed over time.”

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Hours after a cease-fire with the militant organization went into effect, Netanyahu oultined some key successes from the operation: the destruction of 100 kilometers of Hamas tunnels, military infrastructure used for both land and sea attacks, as well as the assassination of 20 senior Hamas members.

He went on to say that Israel would respond forcefully in the event of any attack on Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip.

“At this stage I can say that we undertook daring and innovative acts without needless excursions,” Netanyahu said. “If I had thought that a ground invasion was necessary, I would have done it, but I thought we could achieve our goals in better ways."

Despite Netanyahu's remarks, officials who attended Thursday night's security cabinet meeting told Haaretz that they have doubts about the operation's effectiveness. Officials noted "poor" intelligence, the Israeli airforce's failure to destroy most of Hamas’ tunnels, and the decision not to enter the Strip and limit Israel's attacks to airstrikes.

The officials also slammed the IDF’s failure to assassinate Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and the leader of Hamas’ military wing Mohammed Deif.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, May 2021.Credit: DAN WILLIAMS/ REUTERS

'Opportunity for change'

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that he had spoken with the leaders of Arab countries in recent days, and that "there is an opportunity for change." Gantz added that Israel "must construct a new reality” and stressed the importance of "long-term moves that will weaken the extremists and strengthen and unify moderates.”

The reconstruction of Gaza, the defense minister added, must hinge “not only on quiet but also, and mainly, on progress toward returning hostages and the missing in action.” He warned that the next steps are crucial in ensuring that Operation Guardians of the Walls will not "end up being another round on the way to the next military operation.”

Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman agreed with Gantz's sentiment, saying that the results depend on “the way we conduct ourselves from now on.” He said that the “operation could be game-changing” and that “Hamas before the current operation is not the same as the Hamas on the day after.”

Israel's second front

With the cease-fire restoring calm, Israeli leaders responded to the second front of tension: the civil strife within Israel's mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

The prime minister emphasized the Arab violence against Jews in his statement, echoing earlier remarks by President Reuven Rivlin.

"Anyone who lays hands on civilians, anyone who sets synagogues on fire, loot shops or damages property will pay a price," he said. Netanyahu demanded that Arab leaders condemn the violence. "There are some who have done so. They are brave and praiseworthy," he said.

Gantz described the violence between Jews and Arabs as "nationalist terrorism" and called for a "deep healing process" and for a "different education to recognize the other." The defense minister described this as "one of the most important national tasks facing us at this time."

Argaman also responded to the incidents, by saying that the Shin Bet has been actively working with the IDF and the police in order to “lower the flames.”

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