Israel is ready for a large-scale operation in Gaza if necessary, Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Gallant, a retired IDF major-general, said at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
“Let me say it to be clear: [Hamas leader in Gaza] Yihya Sinwar’s time is limited. He won’t finish his life in an old-age home,” Gallant said.
According to the minister, Hamas is at a “very dramatic junction,” in which it has to recalculate whether it wants to fight Israel or keep the calm of the past week.
“Look at what Israel did in the past 10 years: We closed off the sea, we closed maneuvering on the ground from Gaza and Sinai," Gallant said. "I think the Iron Dome [missile defense system] is doing a pretty good job against missiles; we are in a phase of eliminating all the tunnels [from Gaza into Israel]. If they want a fight, we will defeat them. If they want to behave and talk through a third party, we will hear them,” he said.
Still, Gallant expressed certainty that “there will be another large campaign in Gaza,” but that Israel will determine when and how it will happen, not Hamas.
“I won’t say what we’re going to do,” he added. “It’s better to talk about operations after you launch them, not before... We will prevail, Hamas will pay the price.”
War, he said, “is the last option,” a worst-case scenario.
Gallant also criticized Avigdor Liberman for resigning from the Defense Ministry, saying “it was a very poor decision and I believe that it was done for political reasons and not for national, military and security reasons.
Also on political matters, Gallant said he hopes to remain in Kulanu in the next election, despite persistent talk about him clashing heads with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and eyeing a run in the Likud.
“I respect Minister Kahlon... I am doing my best to cooperate with him," he said. "If it is up to me I will stay in Kulanu, but I am not hiding that my political and security ideas are identical with those of the Likud, so anything can happen in the future,” Gallant said.
Gallant also strongly opposed giving greater control to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
“A strong role in Judea and Samaria is Israel’s security interest, both in fighting against Palestinian threats and threats from the east," he said. "There is a Shia storm. They took over Iraq 10 years ago, they’re trying to take over Syria... and they’re trying to take over Jordan,” he said. “We can’t give [up] a centimeter on the western side of the Jordan Valley. There is no room for two authorities making decisions.”
The Palestinians, Gallant argued, have never been partners for peace.
“They need to accept that the existence of Israel is a clear fact,” he said, pointing to the weekly riots at the Gaza border: “Those at the fence don’t say they want improved living conditions. They say they want Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Haifa, and they’ll never get it. That’s a clear fact.”