"If we had struck the first kite launchers when there were still one or two of them, it would not have reached thousands," Minister of Education Naftali Bennett said on Monday, saying that Israel's policy of restraint has thus far not been successful.
Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, told Kan, Israel's public broadcaster, Israel's policy of restraint in the Gaza Strip has failed and an alternative response to Hamas must be considered.
"They are terrorists in the full meaning of the word and we must eliminate them," Bennett said.
Bennett asserted "if we follow the formula of 'quiet in return for quiet' we will end up with a stronger Hamas, and we will have a second Hezbollah in Gaza." "We have no interest in hurting the residents of Gaza. But we have a clear goal. Just like we had the strategic threat of tunnels and ignored it for years, until Operation Protective Edge, we have to do the same with a militarized Gaza," he said. "It is inconceivable that Hamas will fire on us when they wish and we will remain silent."
Bennett added that Israel is more than ready to remove the restrictions imposed on Gaza in recent weeks, including the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing and the fishing area, if the kite launches are ceased and the quiet continues.
Bennett's words were said after a tentative quiet for the past few days. Hamas has restrained its rocket fire since Thursday, though it remains unclear if Hamas stopped the rocket fire as the result of a mutual understanding reached with Israel, or if it was a unilateral decision.
Israel has imposed tight restrictions on the border, the kind that signify a situation of continued violence. It has continued its almost two-week ban on fuel and gas into Gaza and its more than a month long ban on commercial goods.
Israel demands nothing less than a complete cease-fire from Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday before a weekly government meeting. The prime minister said Israel’s objective is to restore quiet to residents of the South and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. “This goal will be achieved in full,” he added.
Netanyahu spoke as Israel is working on a three-pronged approach to Gaza: preparations for a military campaign; an understanding by which calm is restored; and the possibility of approving a long-term and extensive cease-fire deal.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.