Israel should cooperate with Hamas to stabilize the security situation for the residents of southern Israel, former IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Golan told The Jerusalem Post.
“I don’t see a problem with cooperation with Hamas,” said Golan, who quickly plunged into politics by running with the Democratic Union after he retired from the military earlier this year.Golan told the Post that the government has no policy concerning the 365 sq.km. blockaded coastal enclave which is home to nearly two million people. That lack of policy, he contended, is a terrible move which allows Hamas to control the event on the ground. “Israel should ask itself what is our main purpose? And that is to stabilize the security situation. And the best way to do it is by having some sort of cooperation with Hamas and some sort of mutual interest with Hamas,” he continued. “We need diplomatic, economic, and commercial measures and other elements that we can work with to stabilize the situation.”Golan, stressing that he does not mean security cooperation similar to what Israel has with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, told the Post that in the present there is already a certain level of cooperation with the terror group.“They patrol the border zone with our silent permission. A certain level of cooperation doesn’t mean recognition. Recognition demands basic change in the nature of Hamas,” he said, adding that “further cooperation should be based upon trust. We still have a huge gap to cover.”According to Golan, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tenure of over 10 years, his government hasn’t managed to establish some sort of a reasonable policy concerning the Gaza Strip.“You make agreements or understandings with your enemies, not with friends. It’s very easy to have an understanding with your friend, but this is not the issue and it's not a tough decision, and you don’t need true leaders to make those simple decisions,” said Golan, emphasizing that Israeli civilians should demand that their government create a policy while simultaneously the IDF should prepare for another war in the Strip. Hamas violently took over power of the coastal enclave in 2007 and has gone to war with Israel three times, Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The military operations have left the Gaza Strip in ruins and despite millions of dollars in international aid money, minimal reconstruction has been carried out. The IDF's position is that while Hamas is not interested in a long military conflict with Israel, the terror group might spark a short period of intense fighting in order to negotiate a ceasefire with the help of the international community, allowing the group to improve economic and humanitarian conditions.Thousands of Palestinians have also been taking part in violent weekly protests along the Gaza border fence demanding an end to the blockade. Hamas has recently placed members of the group along the border fence to stop infiltration attempts, but there have been several attempts since the beginning of the month by Palestinians armed with grenades, assault rifles and even rocket-propelled grenades. All have been killed by IDF troops. Though both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad blamed the infiltration attempt on “rebellious angry youth,” Golan told the Post that they were planned events.“There are no spontaneous events with Hamas,” he said. “They are serious people. It’s all planned and they are playing with the level violence in order to get things from Israel.”There have also been nine rounds of conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Strip over the past year, with over a thousand rockets fired towards Israel including four this past weekend.And while Golan stressed that not every Qassam rocket or incendiary balloon should mean war, the government should eliminate the threats posed to residents of the South.
“It doesn’t mean that we need to go to war tomorrow, but what we see today in the south is totally unacceptable. If on a daily basis Israeli civilians can’t live peacefully and it's constant; it's unacceptable,” he said.“We need to do whatever can be done to avoid war and improve the security situation by other measures, but if you reach a point in time where you understand that there is no other way to improve the security situation by other measures, then you can use your military strength to eliminate the threat.”According to Golan, the government – and not the military – needs to create and establish a policy to in order to stabilize Gaza, and only after Israel has “used all the civilian and peaceful measures” to “use our military force in the most decisive way.”The purpose and target of any future war in the coastal enclave should not be the limited goal of destroying the tunnels which is very limited, but rather to limit the military capabilities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Golan elaborated. But, he further pointed out, “the issue in front of the Israeli leadership is if can we stabilize the situation around the Gaza Strip without major war or further operations.”