image Photo: Flash90

Lapid unveils new Gaza initiative

Amid soaring tensions with Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that Jerusalem is to promote a new approach with the Palestinian enclave controlled by the Islamist Hamas terror group.

By Erin Viner

“We must engage a significant multi-year plan of economy in exchange for security,” said Lapid, who also serves as Alternate Premier, said during an address at the annual conference of the International Conference on Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya of Reichman University.

A “paradigm-shift” from previous policy must be enacted, Lapid said, pointing out that Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal and subsequent blockade on Gaza “did not bring about significant situational change” to prevent repeated “rounds of violence that cause suffering and harm to the citizens of our state and its economy,” nor the “smuggling and weapons production” by Palestinian terrorists.

Israel’s new initiative is “more of a realistic approach to what was once called “rehabilitation for disarmament,” said the top Israeli Diplomat, underscoring that “the goal of such an initiative aims to create stability on both sides of the border, defense, civil, economic and diplomatic.”

We cannot accept this reality,” Lapid said, of being forced between the two alternatives of facing “endless rounds of fighting” or “conquering Gaza” contrary to Israel’s national interests. “Surprisingly, a serious initiative on the basis of economy in exchange for security in Gaza was never placed on the table – at least not officially from a broad perspective of the Palestinian issue.” While “many experts” might dismiss this trajectory as “improbable,” he said it has never been tried.

The Israeli Foreign Minister further highlighted that the new initiative does not mean that Jerusalem would seek to negotiate with Hamas, a radical Islamist terror group that seeks the annihilation of the Jewish State – but rather aims to revive a diplomatic channel with the Palestinian Authority.

“The international community and the residents of Gaza need to know that Hamas terror is the obstacle between them and normal life,” said Minister Lapid.

Success of the plan would also afford Jerusalem the ability “to concentrate its resources and investments for its true struggle against Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran’s attempts to turn into a regional power by spreading terror and violence,” he said.

In a later post on his official Facebook account, the leader of the Yesh Atid political party emphasized that “It is time to put the pressure on Hamas. Writing that “the residents of Gaza need to realize that “Hamas is leading you to doom. No one will come to invest real money or try to build an economy where Hamas routinely bombs and shoots at Israel,” he expressed hope that the local Palestinian population would “press Hamas, because they understand what they are losing from the ongoing terror and understand what they have to gain if it stops.”

Acknowledging that the initiative would be “of course a long process” that “will not be measured in months but in years,” the Israeli Foreign Minister said, “The duty of proof on the other side. If Gaza residents are living, they will have to demand Hamas to keep quiet as long as there is a process of construction and rehabilitation.”

Lapid said the various stages of the program will be detailed by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.