Photo Credit: Ben Dori / Flash 90
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, August 19, 2018.

Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett said Sunday that he supports the dialogue taking place between Israel and Hamas, as long as it leads to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip as well as the return of Israeli prisoners held by Hamas.

“I support the outcome, [and] any deal that will prevent the empowerment of Hamas and will return the fallen and the prisoners,” Bennett told Kan Bet Radio. “Hamas is there, I’m not denying that.”

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Bennett said he was undeterred by dealing with Hamas, “so long as we achieve results that serve the Israeli interest.”

The Education Minister, who is a member of the Security Cabinet that would vote on any deal, stressed, however, that he would object to any agreement that could possibly allow Hamas to build up its military capabilities. “The Prime Minister will not get a break. We need to prevent [Hamas] from becoming a second Hezbollah,” Bennet said.

Bennett’s comments come in stark contrast to comments he made last week, objecting to any form of dialogue or concessions towards Hamas, saying that understandings with the terrorist organization and the reopening of the border crossings with Gaza were akin to paying it protection money.

“About a hundred years ago, the Italian Mafia began thriving in the United States. The Mafia devised a system: You choose a place of business, you start vandalizing it, burning it, threatening its employees, and then you show up and offer the owner ‘protection’ in exchange for money, that’s called protection dues,” Bennett said at the time.

“For 140 days, Hamas has been burning our fields and our towns, firing hundreds of rockets at us, sharpshooting our soldiers and telling us: ‘If you meet our demands, we’ll stop the terror,” he continued, adding that “Hamas has to understand that it will pay a mighty price for any harm to Israel’s citizens. Hamas should be afraid of hurting us, it should not gain from it.”

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