Israel was pleasantly surprised on Tuesday when European Union foreign ministers echoed Jerusalem’s demand that Hamas and its terrorist allies be disarmed as an outcome of the current Gaza war.
“The EU calls on Hamas to immediately put an end to these acts and to renounce violence. All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm,” read the first clause of a joint statement issued following a meeting in Brussels.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued its own statement praising “the European Union’s call for the disarmament of the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip of their weapons and the demilitarization of Gaza. These EU statements are completely in line with the perception that guides Israel in the fight against terrorism and they open the door for cooperation in implementing common principles for restoring peace and security.”
Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the week told CNN that the international community must “undertake a program to demilitarize Gaza,” explaining that Israel could not tolerate a war with Hamas every couple years.
A week earlier, Netanyahu explicitly told visiting Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini that the disarmament of Gaza had become a major goal of the current war and for Israel in the long-term. Prior to that, former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul proposed offering $50 billion investment in Gaza in return for Hamas handing over its missile stockpiles.
Tuesday’s EU statement agreed with the Israeli leaders that the status quo in and around Gaza cannot continue, and that more should and could be done to open up that territory and return it to economic stability.
Israel has long maintained that it desires a Gaza Strip that is prosperous and self-sustaining. In fact, Israel withdrew from the coastal enclave in 2005 with that goal in mind, having left behind a wealth of Israeli agricultural businesses for the use of local Palestinian residents.
However, Israel is also adamant that this end goal cannot come at the expense of security for the citizens of the Jewish state. Of course, were the EU’s condition regarding disarmament met, that obstacle would be removed.