Bennett: Next war with Hamas only a matter of time

Another war with Hamas is inevitable, Bennett says, adding that Israel must aim to destroy the terror regime completely.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that another round of fighting with Hamas “is a question of when, not ‘if,’” adding that Israel must aim in the coming conflict to remove the terror group from power once and for all.

Speaking at a memorial service for Ella Abukasis, a 17-year-old girl who died when she was hit by a Kassam rocket from Gaza in 2005 as she shielded her 10-year-old brother from the attack, Bennett said that Israelis must be free to walk the streets without fear of missile attacks.

“This time we must score a definitive victory and not be satisfied with a tie that leaves Hamas able to rearm and plan the next round at its leisure,” Bennett stated. “Only by completely defeating the enemy can we put an end to the neverending merry-go-round of attacks and ceasefires.”

Earlier Tuesday, Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a decorated former general, said there was a high probability of another round of fighting with Hamas in the spring or early summer.

Both Hamas and the IDF have said that they do not want Monday’s rocket attack from Gaza and the IDF’s response to presage an escalation of hostilities, but should that occur, the conflict would take place under vastly different circumstances than the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense and the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.

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Until now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resisted calls to topple Hamas, out of concern for the response of the international community as well as IDF intelligence estimates that say that Hamas, if defeated, will likely be replaced by even more radical and militant Salafi groups. In all three major conflicts with Hamas, Netanyahu’s stated goal has been “to restore quiet to Israeli citizens.”

Senior members of the governing coalition, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, have called openly and repeatedly for regime change in Gaza.

The IDF high command will also have something to say about a large-scale operation aimed at toppling Hamas in Gaza. They will likely remind Netanyahu that any major invasion of Gaza without a clearly thought-out and agreed-upon plan for the day after, which includes a viable exit strategy, would likely end up as a quagmire.

By: Andrew Friedman/TPS