Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz at the Maariv Leaders Conference.
(photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
If Israel is dragged into a military operation in the Gaza Strip amid ongoing clashes on the Israel-Gaza border, it should be called the “Mahmoud Abbas War,” Energy Minister and security cabinet member Yuval Steinitz said on Monday.
Speaking at the Maariv Leaders Conference in Jerusalem, Steinitz reiterated his warning last year that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has a “strategic program to embroil Israel in a conflict in Gaza, and he wants to manipulate us into a conflict Israel is not interested in at a time that isn’t desirable.”
Steinitz said that not only was Abbas trying to maneuver Israel into a conflict with Gaza, but that the Palestinian president would also be the major winner of the conflict through his subsequent condemnations of Israeli action in the international arena.
Opting to discuss security matters rather than his pre-planned address on the future of Israeli energy, Steinitz emphasized that despite voices to the contrary in the government, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, there remains an opportunity to reach a non-military solution for the ongoing violence on the Gaza border.
“I said four years ago, that instead of connecting Gaza to Ramallah, we need to connect it to the world through a port,” Steinitz said. “It is not our mission to return Mahmoud Abbas to Gaza, especially when we will pay the price.”
The energy minister said the government’s security decisions must be dictated by strategic needs and not media headlines, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had correctly placed Iran at the top of his priority list.
“Gaza needs to be our decision, and at the right time for us, and not according to Mahmoud Abbas,” he said.
“Iran is one thousand times as strong as Hezbollah and Hamas. We need to make a further effort to reach a solution in Gaza, because our real interest – not only political interest – is in another place right now.”
Despite continuing violence on the Gaza border, Steinitz expressed his belief that Israeli deterrence is working well.
Not one Israeli soldier or citizen has been harmed or killed in recent months, he said, and terrorist organizations are not firing rockets at border communities every day.
Achieving complete deterrence, the energy minister added, is impossible
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