In late July while Israel’s 50-day offensive Operation Protective Edge was in its final weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-hand man met with a group of journalists in Jerusalem. Tensions were at a peak; the ground invasion had just ended and the air campaign was at an unstable pause. The Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz was about to give the first political strategy briefing on what the Jewish state would want for the future of Gaza, what it would go on to lobby for in truce talks once reconvened in Cairo.
Meanwhile in another part of the Middle East, ISIS carried out its first public decapitations that grabbed Western headlines– they killed over 50 Syrian soldiers and mounted their heads in a town square. Gaza and Israel were overshadowed by the Islamic group that had declared a new caliphate.
Back in Jerusalem on that July afternoon the Steinitz made the case for the de-militarization of Gaza and to strategically turn the besieged coastal strip “into Ramallah.” It would have been a blockbuster announcement, if not for ISIS. For years the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had centered around the status of the West Bank, but over the summer it became clear that Gaza was going to dictate the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and either shore up or break Palestinian national unity.
Steinitz continued that weapons were still in the hands of Hamas, the root of the current strife, and removing those weapons was a “precondition for any serious relief” to the Gaza Strip. “You cancel the terror threat, the rocket threat from Gaza on Israeli citizens and you can cancel the restrictions so the so-called siege on Gaza,” he said.
Steinitz debuted the Israeli government’s most powerful argument for de-legitimization of Hamas: the ISIS comparison. more