Netanyahu: No Diplomatic Solution for Gaza, Just Like With ISIS

PARIS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Paris Sunday that "No political solution exists for Gaza, just as there isn’t one with ISIS." 

"We want to prevent a humanitarian collapse in Gaza, and that’s what we’re doing," he added.

Netanyahu, at the Paris Peace Forum, hosted by French President Emmmanuel Macron, said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with U.S. President Donald Trump. "The conversation with Putin was good and to the point, and I would even say that it was very important," Netanyahu said at a press conference. This was the first time the two leaders spoke in person since the downing of a Russian plane in Syria in September.

As for the situation in Gaza, where Egypt and the United Nations are trying to broker a deal, the prime minister said he was "doing everything I can to prevent an unnecessary war."

The premier added that "first, we aim for calm, then an agreement. We’re not there yet. The decision to go ahead with this process is the right one, I think."

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On the current crisis, he said: "Believe me, we were a step away from exerting maximal force and I think Hamas understood this." He added that "currently what is destabilizing the Strip is internal tensions and we are trying to prevent that."

Asked whether he seeks to reestablish ties with the Democratic Party in the United States following the gain it has made in the midterm elections, Netanyahu denied there’s a growing rift between the party and Israel. "I don’t have to reestablish relations because they are there," Netanyahu said, adding that he has good relations with both the Republican and the Democratic members of Congress, and that he called a number of them following the elections. "The bipartisan support for Israel is critically important," he said.

Downed plane crisis

Putin and Netanyahu shake hands in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, 2017.Alexei Nikolsky,AP

In recent weeks, Netanyahu’s bureau unsuccessfully attempted to organize a meeting between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the event. According to reports from Russia, Putin declined to meet Netanyahu at the forum.

Israel blamed the incident on Syrian recklessness, while the Russian embassy in Israel said the Air Force’s actions were "irresponsible and unfriendly" and exposed the downed plane to danger.

Moscow said last month it had delivered S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Syria, where Israel has struck Iranian targets. The missile shipment came after Russia, a main backer of the Damascus government, accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet by Syrian air defences following an Israeli air strike nearby. 

Two weeks ago a senior diplomatic official said he expects Netanyahu will meet Putin in Paris. "We believe there’s a good chance the meeting will happen there," the source said. "It’s convenient, but not yet set." Netanyahu said in October that he had agreed with Putin, "to meet in the near future in order to continue important security coordination between the countries’ armies."

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said last week that the structure of the conference, the tight schedule and the absence of side rooms create conditions not conducive for side meeting between leaders.

French sources told Haaretz that the conference’s schedule is indeed tight but that they "have no objection to, or influence over, leaders meeting."

Netanyahu contemplated cancelling his trip to Paris because of the limited possibility of private meetings between leaders at the conference, but ultimately decided to attend.

With reporting by Reuters