Israel is doing everything in its power to avoid a war with Hamas in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday at a press briefing.
In a surprise move, Netanyahu threw open the briefing – which had been called to announce the new governor of the Bank of Israel – to questions from the press, for the first time in years.
When asked about the months of heightened tensions and violence along the Gaza border, Netanyahu said, “We are trying to find a solution that will restore calm and security to the residents of Gaza-adjacent communities.
“Because of our actions, the Palestinian side is being very cautious. We don’t want this situation of low-level conflict to continue. … But [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas is choking them [the residents of Gaza, led by his rivals Hamas], so they are taking out some of their anger against Israel.
“We are unwilling to let this situation go on. We’re trying to find solutions, despite the attacks and criticism leveled at me,” Netanyahu told reporters.
The prime minister stressed that he was in “no hurry” to start a “needless war.”
“When we have a choice, [as well as] other fronts to consider, we have chosen the right path,” he said.
Netanyahu also touched on the recent war of words between Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Bennett has vehemently criticized Lieberman’s policy of “ignoring and containing terrorism” as ineffective.
Netanyahu called the spat “unnecessary.”
“The defense minister is doing his job well. Ministers have an obligation to say what they think, but in the cabinet. Cabinet discussions are very serious. They discuss fundamental issues and raise various points of view. I take care to allow people to ask intelligent, substantial question. I have no problem with anyone expressing an opinion, but it needs to be in the cabinet, not outside it,” Netanyahu said.
He was also asked about the lack of a response from the government to the terrorist attack at the Barkan industrial zone on Sunday morning, when a Palestinian man entered the offices of a factory there and shot and killed two workers and wounded a third. The gunman fled and has not yet been captured.
“I don’t think it will take us much longer until we catch the bastard,” the prime minister said.
“It was a murder whose brutality and beastliness are difficult to describe. Tying up a woman and shooting her? We’ll catch him and we’ll bring him to trial,” he said.
When asked if the next Knesset election, scheduled for November 2019, would be moved up, Netanyahu said he had not yet made a decision about an early election.