Israeli soldiers, on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip, watch Palestinian protesters in Gaza May 14, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Members of Israel's security cabinet offered differing, and even contradictory, solutions to the ongoing confrontation between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking on Army Radio Thursday morning, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that "there is a very good chance, certainly after the past several weeks," for a large-scale military confrontation between Israel and Hamas this summer, "to reestablish calm and to achieve a long-term deterrent."
"It is very possible that there will be no other choice, and we will be forced in the next several months to enter a large-scale operation against the Gaza Strip," Erdan said.
The past three months have seen escalating tensions between Israel and the Hamas-governed Palestinian coastal enclave, beginning with the mass "Great March of Return" protests along the border fence separating Israel from Gaza and the IDF's deadly response, which killed dozens of Palestinians, including journalists and medical personnel. Hundreds of mortars and rockets have been fired at Israeli communities in the Gaza border region, and Israel Air Force strikes on Hamas positions in Gaza has been the largest since the Israeli incursion in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
In recent weeks, Palestinians in Gaza been been launching incendiary kites and explosive balloons
that have set Israeli farms, communities and nature preserves on fire.
"Just as the IDF fires at those who approach fence and threaten to cross it, whether they are young or old, and a terrorist is
a terrorist, the same holds for those who launch terror kites that burn fields and perhaps houses, and with explosives attached," Erdan said. "The people who coordinate these cells are Hamas, their age is not relevant."
"The IDF's solution to extract a price from Hamas and to strike its infrastructure... and targeted killings of
Hamas leaders, whether in the militant wing or the political wing, this also prevents the new kite terror," Erdan said.
But in a separate interview with Israel public broadcaster Kan Thursday morning, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is also a member of the security cabienet, advocated taking steps to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, rather than launch a new military engagement.
"There are humanitarian issues, and we are examining ways to ease the situation," Steinitz said. "We can provide more water and more electricity, but... the other side is not functioning. You don't want to reconquer Gaza to connect them to water and electricity."
Steinitz raised the possibility of establishing a designated port for Gaza, under Israeli security supervision, on nearby Cyprus, and making use of the tax funds that Israel passes to the Palestinian Authority to pay for Gaza's electricity and even salaries. Steinitz accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas of deliberately blocking salary payments to Gazans in order to increase tensions between Gaza and Israel.
"We can't ask Israeli citizens to pay Gaza's electric bill," Steinitz said.
"We did not disengage from Gaza in order to reengage with Gaza. Gaza needs to be connected with the world," he said.