Key Netanyahu partner slams moves for truce with Hamas

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A key partner in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition on Tuesday condemned moves for a long term truce agreement with Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, hawkish head of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party, said his party would oppose such an agreement if it were put to a government vote.


“In light of the agreement being forged between Israel and Hamas, (Bennett) announced tonight that the Jewish Home Party would oppose an agreement based on a temporary calm,” his office said in a statement.

Such a deal “would allow Hamas to rearm and regroup for the next round of terror,” it said.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

A wave of protests and clashes erupted along the strip’s border with Israel on March 30, since when at least 169 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.

Since July there have also been three major military flare-ups between Israel and Hamas, with Palestinian rocket and mortar fire into Israel answered with Israeli air strikes and tank fire.

A fragile ceasefire came into effect Thursday night, mediated by Egypt and the United Nations, according to a source close to the negotiations.

The defense ministry said on Tuesday that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had ordered some easing of Israel’s blockade of the coastal Palestinian territory if the current calm was maintained.

It said that Israel would reopen its only goods crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning if there were no incidents, and restore Gaza’s offshore fishing zone to nine miles, which had been reduced last month to three.

There have been efforts by United Nations officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, though there has not so far been any official comment from the Israeli government.

Bennet slammed his political rival Lieberman’s decision to reopen the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

“Lieberman’s gestures to Hamas are a mistake -- Jewish Home ministers will vote against the Israel-Hamas agreement,” he wrote in the English-language statement.

Israeli media said that the security cabinet was expected to convene on Wednesday to debate the Gaza situation.

“After 130 days under attack and rocket fire, we must not reward terrorists,” Bennet added. “The terrorists will learn that terror pays, and Israel’s power of deterrence will be harmed.”

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