NEW DELHI: Gaza must be demilitarized and deradicalized in the same manner that de-Nazification was carried out in Germany after World War Two, said Mark Regev, senior adviser to Israel’s prime minister. He was speaking at a webinar on Tuesday organised by the Israel-Asia Institute to brief listeners in Asia on the Gaza war.
De-radicalization, Regev said, must be carried out “immediately after the war is done. Israel has no desire to occupy or rule Gaza but Gaza must be in peace with its neighbours and run by a Palestinian government that will work for the welfare of all the people of Gaza.”
They will see what Hamas’ 16-year rule of their territory has brought them, extremism and bitterness, especially to their young. The only way forward, he said, is through pragmatism and cooperation if a better future is to be realised.
In his view, Hamas is desperate for a ceasefire. It is under tremendous pressure from the Israeli military, which has taken out many of their senior commanders. Israel is clear that a temporary ceasefire is only possible if the hostages are released.
At this point there is no cooperation from Hamas on the hostage issue, Regev claimed. He said there were 237 hostages, some over 75 years of age and also children under 18, also babies and infants.
“Who takes babies hostage? He asked. “What barbarian kidnaps infants and babies even before they can walk?”
He said the Red Cross has asked for permission to visit the hostages but Hamas has said no. There is no sign to indicate if the hostages are alive but he also confirmed behind-the-scenes talks on the hostage issue. He said for obvious reasons he could not give any further details.
He confirmed that the civilians living along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon have seen some attacks by Hezbollah. They have been evacuated and the Israeli military is battle ready for a two-front war.
“We will not be taken by surprise,” he warned, “the Israeli military is carefully following every development, its eye is on the ball and if activated, the military will move expeditiously. In fact, we will win decisively as we did in 1967 (Six-Day war) and 1973 (Yom Kippur war).”
Regev said there is a difference between the public statements issued by Arab states on the Gaza war and what they express in private to their Israeli interlocutors. No Gulf Arab state or those in North Africa like what Hamas has done. The exception is Qatar, which remains a strong backer of Hamas.
The Gaza war, Regev said, is a geopolitical struggle, Israel is fighting Hamas as it seeks to return the region into the dark ages. Israel’s victory, he said, will be a victory for the people of Gaza and the entire Middle East, a victory for moderation and civilization.