Destroy Hamas, deradicalize the Palestinians: Netanyahu lays out preconditions for peace in Wall Street Journal op-ed
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits IDF soldiers in northern Gaza, Dec. 25, 2023. (Photo: GPO/Avi Ohayon)

By Luke Tress
December 26, 2023

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out his preconditions for peace with Gaza in a Monday op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, saying, “Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarized, and Palestinian society must be deradicalized.”

“These are the three prerequisites for peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors in Gaza,” Netanyahu wrote.

The outline for a peace agreement came as Israel pushed its ground offensive farther into Gaza in its campaign to destroy the Hamas terrorist group. The counter-offensive sparked by the Oct. 7 atrocities against Israelis has caused widespread destruction and suffering in Gaza, and continues amid mounting international pressure for a ceasefire.

Netanyahu said in his op-ed that international allies including the U.S., U.K., France and Germany back Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas by dismantling its military capabilities and political rule over Gaza. Since Hamas’s leaders have vowed to repeat the Oct. 7 massacres, he argued, the group’s continued existence will lead to more war.

The Israeli leader, who visited soldiers in northern Gaza Monday after a weekend in which 17 soldiers were killed, said Gaza needed to be demilitarized to prevent future attacks, and that disarmament will require a temporary security zone on the border and inspections on Gaza’s border with Egypt to prevent weapons smuggling.

Netanyahu dismissed calls to involve the Palestinian Authority in Gaza’s demilitarization, saying the P.A. “glorifies terrorism” and was unwilling and unable to disarm Hamas. He lashed out at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for not condemning the Oct. 7 attack.

Hamas seized power in Gaza in a bloody 2007 coup, leaving the P.A. in control of the West Bank. The P.A. is more moderate and secular than Hamas, and has long cooperated with Israel on security, including by cracking down on Hamas operatives in the West Bank. The P.A. has a contentious relationship with Israel, which has complained that Ramallah pays stipends to terrorists and their families. Abbas is also deeply unpopular in the West Bank, and is 88 years old, with no clear successor.

The Biden administration has called for the P.A.’s participation in rebuilding Gaza after the war. Netanyahu’s op-ed also did not mention a Palestinian state, another priority for the United States, a key backer of Israel’s war effort.

“For the foreseeable future Israel will have to retain overriding security responsibility over Gaza,” Netanyahu wrote.

For deradicalization, Netanyahu called for changes to Palestinian school curricula, civil society and religious sermons. He compared his deradicalization goals to the process that took place in Germany and Japan after World War II.

“Once Hamas is destroyed, Gaza is demilitarized and Palestinian society begins a deradicalization process, Gaza can be rebuilt and the prospects of a broader peace in the Middle East will become a reality,” Netanyahu wrote.

The op-ed did not mention the hostages captured by Hamas on Oct. 7. During the terror onslaught in southern Israel, attackers killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 240 hostages, the majority of whom remain in captivity.Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, on Monday vowed to continue fighting Israel. 

Israel pressed farther into Gaza this week, including in the area of the southern city of Khan Younis, thought to be home to some of Hamas’ top leadership, who have eluded Israeli forces.

Fighting also continued in northern Gaza, despite the Israel Defense Forces’ claim that it was mostly in control of the area.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi warned on Tuesday that the Gaza campaign will continue for months, amid mounting international pressure to end the violence. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 20,000 people have been killed. The figure is not verifiable and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The IDF on Tuesday evening said three soldiers were killed in Gaza, bringing the military toll since the start of the campaign to 161.

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