Despite Growing Pressure, Netanyahu Still Supports Efforts to De-escalate Tensions With Gaza

The PM says his strategy is to prevent harm to Israelis while preventing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Diplomatic sources add: 'If we had someone to give it to, we would have occupied Gaza already. The other option is to hit it hard without occupying it'

Palestinian protesters burn tires during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, on October 29, 2018.
AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters Monday that he continues to support efforts to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

"We are working to prevent [Gaza] forces getting into Israel to harm our soldiers and communities," Netanyahu said. "On the other hand, we are working to prevent a humanitarian crisis, which is why we're willing to accept the UN and Egypt's mediation efforts to reach calm and fix the electricity situation."

A diplomatic source added that "there is no diplomatic solution with a body that wants to destroy us. The only solution is deterrence and a humanitarian solution to prevent collapse that will end up exploding in our faces."

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"The collapse is a result of Abu Mazen's decision to cut their funding," the source said, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by him nickname. "We were close to signing an agreement for getting back to a calming but it was dismantled by the protests on the fence Friday. They were getting fuel before so we thought things would calm, but then they came to the fence," the source continued.

According to diplomatic sources, the premier wants to avoid a war, but "that doesn't mean he'll be able to."

The sources explained the internal considerations regarding Gaza, given mounting public pressure: "Our options are occupying Gaza, but if we had someone to give it to, we would have occupied it already. And it has to be done in a way that prevents casualties. But there's no one to give it to, the Arabs don’t want to hear about it, so the other option is to hit it hard without occupying it. In order to give us time. But in actuality, we are already giving them pretty hard blows."

According to sources, Netanyahu is willing to take the political criticism because he believes that the options for reaching a calm have yet been exhausted.

"It's not only a question of political capital, we have not exhausted all options," the source said.