World Bulletin / News Desk
Israel and Hamas share common interests, and the Palestinians must stay in power in the Gaza Strip to prevent the enclave descending into chaos, an Israeli general was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Major-General Sami Turgeman's remarks, reported in the top-selling Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, cast Hamas in a more pragmatic light than comments about the group usually made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
"Israel and Hamas have shared interests, including in the current situation, which is quiet and calm and growth and prosperity," said the general, who is in charge of Israeli forces on the Gaza and Egyptian borders.
"There is no substitute for Hamas as sovereign in the Strip. The substitute is the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) and chaotic rule ... and then the security situation would be much more problematic," he said.
"I don't know how the next operations will look. It will take more than a month for a significant achievement and we have to prepare ourselves for such a reality. For Hamas, the number of dead and amount of our attacks are not a measure of success or lack of success. What matters is that it didn't lose and that it stayed in power." he added.
An Israeli military spokesman did not contest the accuracy of the quotes attributed to Turgeman from the private meeting on Monday with the municipal leaders. Netanyahu's office had no immediate comment. Nor did Hamas officials in Gaza.
Turgeman predicted a continued build-up of Hamas's armed capabilities and renewed Gaza fighting "every few years".
"The alternative is to try to find periods of quiet, as much as possible," Turgeman said, arguing against rightist proposals that Israel, which withdrew from Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, retake the cramped and impoverished territory.