Senior defense official: Next battle with Hamas will be the last

A senior defense ministry source told defense reporters on Wednesday that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has no political legitimacy, and vowed that in the next war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza the Islamist terror group would be overthrown.

The official began with surprisingly harsh words for Israeli government policy. "We are weak in terms of policy, and strong in the military sphere," he told reporters from his office, under condition of anonymity.

"This reality needs to change."

"Abu Mazen isn't interested in progressing anywhere, or according to any (peace) process," he continued, referring to PA president Abbas. "That man doesn't have the public support or the strength to reach any arrangement or agreement,"

The official noted a recent poll carried out by the Shekaki Institute – the most reliable PA-based polling institute of its kind – which found that 65% of Palestinians want Abbas to resign.

Abbas hasn't visited major PA-controlled cities such as Shechem (Nablus) and Jenin at all over the last eight years, exhibiting his deep unpopularity beyond Ramallah. During that same period, the PA chief has visited European capitals such as London and Paris dozens of times.

He added that while the defense establishment sees Abbas – who presides over widespread incitement and corruption – as the main problem, Hamas is a close second.

"Hamas is a threat which ebbs and flows," the official said. "It's enough to see the schoolbooks in Gaza, the school curricula, and the incitement, to understand that we are dealing here with an organization which pours every investment into building military infrastructure against Israel."

The official also shot down talk of building a seaport in Gaza, floated both by some foreign leaders and members of the current Israeli government, who say improving economic life for regular Gazans is separate to Israel's struggle with Hamas.

"We won't allow the construction of a port or anything of the sort," he said. "The next battle between Israel and Hamas will be the last one. There won't be any Hamas government after that."

Turning to the north, the senior official said that while security assessments show Hezbollah is too tied up in Syria and elsewhere in the region to open up another front with Israel, the IDF is highly prepared for every eventuality.

He also addressed social challenges facing the army, calling for greater investment in aiding "lone soldiers", as well as non-Jewish minorities serving in the IDF.

Israel "must give its full attention to this sector (lone soldiers), as well as to those who enlist even though according to Jewish law they are not Jews," he insisted, calling for greater efforts to ease the conversion process for those who want "to see themselves as part of (Israeli) society."

Turning to the ongoing controversy over American military aid to Israel, the senior official called on both Israel and the US to reach an agreement "as fast as possible."

"We need to close the deal, and there is no room for time extensions."

On the subject of US defense aid, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is due to fly to America on Saturday night in order to help push an aid package deal, as well as to take part in the inaugural ceremony for the new F-35 jet.

Yesterday, the defense minister took action against a close aid of Mahmoud Abbas, stripping him off all diplomatic privileges in response to that PA official's efforts to incite terrorism against Israelis.

"A man like this, who engages for months in incitement against Israel and in subversive activities – including the establishment of a new Arab party – will not receive any further entry permits into Israeli territory," Liberman said in a statement.


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