Israel’s senior officials decided that it would be better for the country to not overthrow Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to anonymous officials cited by Haaretz.
A political source claimed that Israel’s policy on Hamas remains unchanged, the plan to not topple the group comes from the concern that if it falls that would lead to a collapse of Gaza’s infrastructure. That would most likely also harm Israel.
Thus, the instructions to defense officials are to deter Hamas and weaken it, but in a way that will not put its control of Gaza at risk.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly continues to support efforts to reach an agreement that will restore quiet to the south.
According to Haaretz, the Israeli decision is also a result of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rigid stance on Gaza and the attempts to reach an agreement.
Israel accuses Abbas of standing in the way of improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza, for example, by opposing the entry of fuel trucks financed by Qatar. Israel is concerned that this increases the chance of an escalation.
According to the anonymous sources, Abbas is hoping precisely for an escalation, because assist the Palestinian Authority in its reconciliation talks with Hamas. He plans on increasing the punitive measures against the group in the short term, according to the unnamed officials.
As a result, senior political and defense officials say Israel’s talks with Hamas through intermediaries will be more effective than a process that involves the PA. On October 29th, Netanyahu told reporters that he continues to support efforts to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Strip.
“We are working to prevent [Gaza] forces getting into Israel to harm our soldiers and communities,” he said.
An unnamed hawkish political source added that “There is no diplomatic solution with a group that wants to destroy us. The only solution is deterrence and a humanitarian solution to prevent a collapse that will end up exploding in our faces.”
The source added that “The collapse is a result of Abu Mazen’s [Mahmoud Abbas] decision to cut funding. We were close to signing an agreement for getting back to calm but it was scuttled by the protests at the fence Friday. They were getting fuel before, so we thought things would calm down, but then they came to the fence.”
According to the unnamed political sources, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wishes to avoid a war.
These rumors follow Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s comments that there is “no possibility of an agreement with Hamas,” on October 29th.
In a meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu faction he continued his hawkish calls for a stronger approach towards Hamas.
“There is no need to continue to wait,” he said. “There is no path to an agreement with Hamas. We will not restore quiet and calm to the South without dealing the most severe blow we can.”
He also said that he saw the protests of the residents of the South against government inaction and he believes that the protestors are 100% correct.
“The story has gone on for seven months,” he said. “We tried all the options, and the fact is that last Friday [October 26th], Gaza residents endured 43 rockets and red alerts, and this clearly cannot go on.” He was referring to Islamic Jihad declaring truce with Israel after firing 37 rockets at southern Israel. In response, the Israeli Defense Forces hit 95 targets in Gaza, according to the Jerusalem post.
Border clashes between the IDF and 16,000 Gaza rioters on Friday left four Palestinians dead. Palestinian medical officials said that 232 people were wounded in those riots, 180 of them from live fire. A fifth Palestinian was killed in the West Bank during clashes with the IDF. The Islamic Jihad claimed it shot the rockets to avenge the four Palestinians that died during the rally.
Lieberman also said that Israel would not accept Hamas’ demand of economic benefits like fuel from Qatar while the violence continues. He also said he opposed a ground invasion.
“We have enough ways to restore quiet and clam without a ground invasion,” he said. “In my opinion, even if we kill 40,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, it is not worth losing one Israeli life.”
Thus, the option of a large-scale military intervention in Gaza by Israel is still a possibility. If the claims of the sources are correct, though, it appears that this option is delayed.