Former PM Olmert: Gov't views Abbas as the real enemy, not Hamas

The current prime minister "has no courage or determination to do what he promised."

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August 15, 2019 15:34
3 minute read.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview with the Jerusalem Post

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas as a dangerous enemy and has no strategy about Gaza, former prime minister Ehud Olmert told The Jerusalem Post.

“The government of Israel doesn’t want to fight Hamas, they want to fight Abu Mazen [Abbas] and the Palestinian Authority," Olmert said in his office on Wednesday. "They want to squeeze the PA to a corner because for them, they are the real enemy and not Hamas.” 

“No one demands that Israel engage in a serious political dialogue with Hamas, but almost everyone in the world except – for America – demands that Israel engage in a political dialogue with the PA,” he said. “But Netanyahu doesn't want peace and doesn’t want to engage with the Palestinian Authority, because that would him lead into to concessions he doesn’t want to accomplish. So therefore, for him, the PA is the dangerous enemy that has to be squeezed into a corner and criticized all the time, not Hamas.”

Olmert served as Israel’s 12th prime minister from 2006-2009 and oversaw the 2009 Cast Lead military operation. The operation, which included an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, lasted 22 days and led to the deaths of  between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israelis. 

It caused unprecedented damage to the Strip and strengthened Hamas’s hold on the coastal enclave.

And it was also the last opportunity to destroy Hamas at a minimum price for Israel, Olmert contends.

“I wanted to take over the Philadelphia line and clear Rafah from the presence of Hamas terrorists, and take over the other parts of Gaza to then bring in an international force – as I did in the south of Lebanon – that would take over and prepare Gaza for the return of the Palestinian Authority.”

But that didn’t happen. And “the next time we met, Hamas had tunnels, much stronger military power and a lot more weapons to make the Israeli attempt to take over Hamas a lot more painful for us.”

“I to this day regret that [it didn't happen], because of the political considerations of [Olmert's defense and foreign ministers] Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, who opposed violently any further action that may have destroyed Hamas in Gaza at the time,” he said.

Hamas violently took power of the 25-mile coastal enclave in 2007 and has since gone to war with Israel three times: Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

The military operations have left the Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million people, in ruins. And, despite millions of dollars in international aid money, minimal reconstruction has been carried out.

Over the past year, thousands of Palestinians have been taking part in violent weekly protests along the Gaza border fence demanding an end to the blockade. There have also been nine rounds of conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, with over a thousand rockets fired towards Israel in the past year.

The last round in early May alone saw over 700 rockets fired towards southern Israel, which killed five civilians.

And, according to Olmert, that’s a comfortable situation for the Netanyahu government, which has no strategy about Gaza.

“It’s very comfortable for the government to have these periodical confrontations with Hamas, which almost always result in a massive rocket attacks from Gaza and a massive use of Iron Dome,” he said. “There is a very painful psychological impact on the population, but the number of victims and casualties is minimal – to the degree that it can be repeated and prolonged almost indefinitely without any major action by the State of Israel.”

“Even though the current prime minister keeps saying how strong he is and that he will destroy Hamas, he’s done the opposite,” Olmert told the Post.

Olmert stated that Israel should have provided Gaza incentives for the citizens to “separate from the terror group,” such as providing more electricity, business opportunities, economic options and a deep water port. “Now, we don’t give them any opportunity – and we should have,” he stated.

Netanyahu “has no courage, determination or will to do what he has promised to do.”


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