Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday vowed not to allow Hamas to cover up its military loss with a diplomatic victory by agreeing to a truce deal that ignores Israel’s security needs, as the fate of talks in Cairo to achieve a long-term ceasefire in Gaza hangs in balance amid hardening of stance by both sides.
“We are in the midst of a combined military and diplomatic campaign…If Hamas thinks that it can cover up its military loss with a diplomatic achievement, it is mistaken,” Netanyahu told his cabinet at its weekly meeting on Sunday.
“If Hamas thinks that continued sporadic firing will cause us to make concessions, it is mistaken. As long as quiet is not restored, Hamas will continue to take very harsh blows. If Hamas thinks that we cannot stand up to it over time, it is mistaken,” he stressed in an apparent reference to threats from Gaza militant factions that they will start firing rockets at Israel if their demands are not met.
The Israeli Premier also asserted that his delegation negotiating the ceasefire deal has “clear instructions” to insist on the security needs of the state.
“Only if there is a clear response to our security needs will we agree to reach understandings,” he emphasised.
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“In the past month Hamas has taken a severe military blow. We destroyed its network of tunnels that it took years to dig. We intercepted the rockets that it had massed in order to carry out thousands of deadly strikes against the Israeli home front.
“And we foiled the terrorist attacks that it tried to perpetrate against Israeli civilians – by land, sea and air,” Netanyahu claimed.
The Israeli leader, who has come under intense pressure from coalition partners over negotiations, also called upon for “determination and patience” to achieve the country’s objectives.
“In the stormy and unstable Middle East in which we live, it is not enough that there be more strength, determination and patience are also necessary. Hamas knows that we are very strong but maybe it thinks that we do not have enough determination and patience, and here it is making a big mistake,” the Israeli Premier said.
“We are a strong and determined people. We have seen this in the amazing revelations of strength and resilience in the past weeks on the part of both our soldiers and our civilians,” he added.
Netanyahu also made a plea to all citizens to to continue to be steadfast and united until “we achieve the goals of the campaign – the restoration of quiet and security for all Israelis.”
Several ministers in Israel’s overwhelmingly right-wing dominated coalition government have objected to talks with Hamas led Gaza militant factions calling for tough action, including even toppling of Hamas regime.
Israel’s Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett, who is leading a group of ministers objecting to negotations, called on Israel to leave talks, and implement the unilateral proposal he has been promoting for the past two weeks.
“The current situation in which we are biting our nails waiting for the response of a murderous terrorists group must end. We must stop the negotiations with Hamas and take our fate into our own hands: Humanitarian (aid) yes, terror no,” Bennett said.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, a rightist from the Yisrael Beitenu party, slammed the government saying, “Hamas is managing us, we are being led”.
“Israel is attempting to reach calm at any price. This is only a temporary calm. In all the previous rounds of fighting after calm was reached we got a more aggressive response. We are turning Hamas into an international player,” Landau noted.
As talks resumed between the two sides in Cairo under Egyptian mediation, little optimism could be sensed from both the sides.
Hamas’ political chief, Khaled Meshaal, yesterday ruled out any compromise on “all the demands” and it is unlikely that Israel will agree to those demands.
The main Gaza militants demand revolves around lifting of a crippling seven year blockade over the coastal Strip.