Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said threats from the Islamic State and al-Qaida as well as Hezbollah and Iran led to his decision not to put "all assets" in one battle against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu’s comments came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, writing in The New York Times, called for a "global coalition" against Islamic extremists who are "perilously close to Israel."
In an interview Saturday on Israel’s Channel 2, Netanyahu said amid a reality "where the Islamic State is galloping toward us, al-Qaida is on the Golan borders," he decided "not to invest all my assets in this one arena," the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The defense budget needs to be increased, he added, without citing any numbers.
Netanyahu was interviewed after an Aug. 26 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas that ended more than seven weeks of fighting. The Egypt-brokered deal allows the opening of Gaza’s border crossings with Israel to let in reconstruction materials and humanitarian aid. Ministers have started criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict as the truce holds.
Disarming Gaza-based militants, a key Israeli demand, wasn’t included in the accord. Egypt said both sides will resume indirect talks about pending issues, including Hamas’s demands for a seaport and an airport, in a month. Israel, the U.S. and the European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.
During the violence, several rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel’s north. Syrian fighters today attacked United Nations peacekeepers from the Philippines who were stationed on the part of the Golan Heights controlled by Syria. Israel captured part of the strategic plateau in the 1967 Middle East war.
"I am preparing for a reality in the Middle East that is very problematic," Netanyahu said. He also mentioned the threat he sees from Iran because of its nuclear program and its support of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
Iran and world powers continue negotiations to reach an agreement over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program that Israel says is aimed at building atomic weapons. The U.S. on Aug. 29 penalized dozens of entities and individuals involved in expanding Iran’s nuclear proliferation program and helping the Persian Gulf nation evade U.S. and international sanctions.
Yoram Meital, a political scientist at Ben-Gurion University, said extremist organizations such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida have yet to form large enough armies to "significantly pose an existential threat to Israel."
"Of course, the Israeli security establishment should keep their eyes open for this activity that is not far from the Israeli border," Meital said in a phone interview. "On the other hand, there is a tendency to exaggerate the power of these groups for political aims."
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