Report: Netanyahu, Ya’alon Prefer Settlement Expansion Over Military Offensive

Netanyahu - Ya'alonDefense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed Monday night that Israel’s response to the murder of the three teenagers in the West Bank include a wave of settlement construction and the establishment of a new settlement in memory of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.

An Israeli defense official said that Ya’alon suggested the new settlement be established in the G’vaot outpost, located between Alon Shvut and Beitar Ilit.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni reportedly opposed the move and threatened to vote against the cabinet decision. Livni said it would hurt the little bit of legitimacy Israel has from the international community to retain the settlements blocs in any future deal with the Palestinians.

“It is wrong to split the nation along ideological lines of construction that the entire nation is not behind,” Livni said. “Such a move could also hurt our international legitimacy for a military operation against Hamas. Settlement construction at this stage would minimize the murders and transform it from a national issue to a political one.”

Bennett, however, suggested rather a comprehensive military operation against Hamas.

Quoting an unnamed source, Haaretz reports that Bennett came up with a list of eight possible actions, among them, a large-scale operation in Gaza.

“The response we are discussing here is weak and borders on disgraceful,” Bennett reportedly said. “This was a severe instance of the kidnapping of three kids and their murder in cold blood. A weak response to such a grave incident guarantees the next kidnapping.”

Ya’alon warned that Bennett’s suggestions were dangerous. “If we implement what you propose, it will lead to an escalation we won’t know how to control, to the point of a war in Gaza.” Ya’alon said. “Do we really want a war in Gaza now?” Bennett responded: “We will ultimately be at war in Gaza. It’s better that we be the ones to start it.”

Livni also rejected Bennett’s proposal. “We’ve had harsh terror attacks in the past, but you don’t start a war because of it,” she said.

The cabinet will reconvene Tuesday night, since Netanyahu is seeking unanimous consent.

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