(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon came out against the creation of a Palestinian state and defended his decision not to topple Hamas in holiday interviews with the Hebrew press published Wednesday.
Ya’alon criticized Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas in an interview with Israel Hayom, saying that he has never committed to ending the conflict with Israel even if the Jewish state withdrew to pre-1967 lines. He said Abbas also has not given up his hopes of inundating Israel with Palestinian refugees.
“Rather than look for a solution, I am seeking a way to manage the conflict and our relations in a way to strengthen our mutual interests,” Ya’alon said. “It is time to free ourselves of the concept that everything leads to a framework that is called a state. From my standpoint, they can call it the Palestinian empire. I don’t care. It would basically be autonomy.”
Ya’alon revealed to The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister newspaper Ma’ariv Hashavua that, before Operation Protective Edge, the security cabinet evaluated the cost and benefit of entering Gaza, capturing it, and destroying Hamas. Every minister except Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman decided it would be wrong to do it at this stage.
“If we entered, there would be no one to replace us when we left. Not Abbas, the Egyptians, the Arab League, NATO, or the UN,” he said. “That meant entering without finishing the job or getting stuck there. Getting stuck there means a civil administration, military government, and all the responsibilities on us, including rebuilding Gaza.
The annual cost of governing Gaza would be some 10 billion shekels. Is that what we need to add to our state budget? Do we need our best forces to be in Gaza? Do we not have other challenges?” Ya’alon said destroying Hamas meant cleaning Gaza of tens of thousands of terrorists, unlike in Judea and Samaria, where he said there were several hundred terrorists and no heavy arms.
“If we decided to clean out Gaza, there would still be no cease-fire,” he said. “We would be fighting inside with our best forces while rockets would still be fired, our soldiers would unfortunately be killed, and eventually people would ask, now or in a year, who is the idiot who made that decision?” Regarding the tunnels that stretched from Gaza to Israeli communities, Ya’alon said the security cabinet knew neutralizing them would cost the lives of a number of soldiers but the ministers realized that there was no choice.
Ya’alon said Hamas did not win, because it was forced to relinquish control over money going into the Gaza Strip to the PA, and its name was not mentioned in the Gaza donors’ conference. He promised that nothing will enter Gaza without oversight and Hamas would not be able to restock its supply of rockets.
“The Egyptians have been preventing smuggling for the past year,” he said. “Hamas cannot rearm like they did in the past.”