(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
As reports emerged on Tuesday of a possible deal being crafted between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to end more than a month of hostilities on the Gaza front, right-wing politicians spoke out against making concessions to Hamas.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) addressed reports that Israel was considering agreeing to a Hamas demand to transfer, through a third party, money to pay the back salaries of thousands of its employees in the Gaza Strip. “The ‘money for Hamas in exchange for quiet’ formula is political extortion,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“Let’s tell the truth: The money will go to terrorists who are digging [attack tunnels] beneath us, to those producing missiles and to the people shooting at us,” the minister warned.
The Hamas “extortionists,” were essentially saying, “Pay us, and we will shoot at you later; don’t pay us, and we will shoot at you now,” Bennett argued.
The “money to terrorists in exchange for quiet” formula would allow Hamas to recuperate after Operation Protective Edge and rearm itself for the next round of violence, he said.
“We can’t fight Hamas with one hand and fund them with the other,” he said.
Bennett said that he was fighting in the security cabinet to prevent the government from agreeing to such cease-fire terms. He called on the other government ministers to do the same.
“You don’t pay Hamas, you defeat them,” he said.
Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said that the emerging truce deal would “cancel out all the achievements of Operation Protective Edge and turn Hamas into the victor.”
Rather than give Hamas more, Israel should worsen conditions in Gaza immediately, she said. Hotovely called for Israel to halt shipments of goods to Gaza and to stop supplying electricity to the Strip.
Likud MK Miri Regev said that any cease-fire deal would have to require Hamas to return the bodies of St.-Sgt.
Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, the two soldiers killed in Gaza whose place of burial remains unknown. An agreement would also have to include the understanding that Hamas will be held responsible for all rocket fire and expect a heavier response from Israel to the attacks.
Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck said that Israel “must staunchly oppose any deal that allows for money and building materials to enter Gaza without tight supervision that will completely prevent the development of new tunnels, weapons and terrorism.”
Israel should not agree to allow any salaries to be paid to Hamas employees before the bodies of the soldiers are returned, Struck added.