Netanyahu: Capturing Gaza is last option, but it’s ‘on the table’

“The forces are in place,” but taking over Gaza “is the last option, not the first,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu in a public radio interview.

By World Israel News Staff

“All options, including entering and conquering Gaza, are on the table, in accordance with what is good for the State of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.

“It could be that we will be forced to embark on a broad military campaign in Gaza,” the prime minister said in an interview with Kan public radio. “The forces are in place, but that is the last option, not the first,” he added.

Pressure has been mounting on Mr. Netanyahu from within his cabinet to take stronger action against the ongoing, and at times massive, air attacks from the Gaza Strip on southern Israel. Rockets have also been fired recently into the center of the country.

In November, Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister, complaining of what he considered a soft response to the attacks from Gazan terror groups. Mr. Netanyahu has been serving as defense minister since Mr. Liberman’s resignation.

Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett wanted the defense portfolio when Mr. Liberman quit and says that he sees himself as the best candidate for the job after next week’s Knesset election.

“We have done much in Gaza, but we haven’t done one thing: We haven’t conquered it,” the prime minister told Kan, explaining that such a move would mean putting “two million Palestinians under our control,” unless some Arab country would take control instead.

“I have spoken with many Arab leaders about this possibility,” but none of them were interested in such a plan, he said.

Israel captured the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war but withdrew in 2005.

In 2007, the Hamas terror group overthrew the Palestinian Authority in the Strip.

“I am not engaging in needless wars. I want to use the force that is necessary and I am willing to pay the price, but only when it is necessary,” Mr. Netanyahu said in the interview.

Egypt has been mediating between Israel and Hamas on a temporary cessation of violence as Israel has been encouraging an effort on the part of the United Nations and Qatar to improve the standard of living of Gazans with the hope that better socio-economic conditions would discourage terror.

“I want every mother and father to know that I am not sending their children to war without exhausting all other options,” said the prime minister.