Netanyahu praises ‘unique’ Israeli technological breakthrough in tunnel find
Gaza border residents can feel calm, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, in a first response to the Hamas tunnel which was detected in the region, and cleared for publication today.
Speaking with Israeli reporters, Netanyahu praised the security and intelligence forces that thwarted the tunnel’s construction and hailed the “unique Israeli technological breakthrough” in detecting tunnels, defining it as a “substantial change”. Netanyahu rejected the political criticism voiced today against his policies in the Gaza Strip, and says Israel has been preparing systematically, investing enormous resources, to deter Hamas and protect Israeli civilians.
“The last two years were the quietest in the past decade”, he said. “we are not interested in escalation and Hamas isnt either, but I am sure Hamas understands we will react forcefully if needed, above and beneath the ground”.
During the briefing, which touched upon several burning issues, Netanyahu made the connection between the Gaza border tensions and demands for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
“Why aren’t there tunnels in the West Bank? Not because it is hard to dig, but because the IDF has full freedom of movement in the area, and can operate anytime anyplace to thwart terror. This is one of the things that guides us when we think about any arrangement in the West Bank. The West Bank covers hundreds of kilometers, not only 80 like in Gaza, there is a real option that they can dig thousands of tunnels there”.
Netanyahu addressed recent reports regarding negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on a limited withdrawal of IDF forces from Palestinian cities in Area A, and said that the only thing that guides him is transferring security responsibilities if the other side fills the void.
“If the PA security forces will do more – the IDF will do less, we have no interest in operating when it is not necessary, but we will never give up our ability to act anytime and anyplace according to security needs”. He added that in any arrangement with the Palestinians, “Israel will have to be the dominant factor controlling security”.
Regarding the diplomatic stalemate with the Palestinians, Netanyahu reiterated his demand that any arrangement “must include a Palestinian acceptance of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, without canceling the demand for the right of return, as well as educating the public about peace, and no to return of the cities of Jaffa, Acco and Jericho.
“You can open negotiations but you cannot conclude them,” the Prime Minister continued. “How many times can I invite Abbas without losing my voice? We had a deep discussion with Kerry for almost a year and Abbas ran away. Did it change anything?”.
The Israeli prime minister expressed his hope that the US will continue to protect Israel from Palestinian UN resolutions, “the US usually never tries to coerce an agreement from the outside and I hope this will be the approach for the next months and years”.
Netanyahu said that in a sharp contrast to the critical approach toward Israel in western Europe, the Arab world is increasingly “seeing Israel as part of the problem and not part of the solution”. According to Netanyahu, “talk about a lack of initiative is empty. The real initiative is what we are doing already – establishing a regional network. We do not make noise about it and I believe that these relations will bring progress also on the Palestinian track”.
As an example, Netanyahu said he was fully updated on the Egyptian-Saudi deal to transfer control of the Tiran and Sanafir islands, and says hes sees them as a “positive development. I don’t see any reason that this agreement
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