Netanyahu says Gaza op will continue, suggests return to peace talks

(JTA) — In statements defending Israel’s conduct in its ongoing conflict in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “will look forward to restarting peace negotiations” with the Palestinians.

On Wednesday, speaking in English, Netanyahu compared Hamas to ISIS, the militant Islamist group in Iraq and Syria, and said that “no other country has acted more rigorously than Israel in defending itself within legitimate means.” In a Hebrew statement, he said Israel’s military operation will continue until calm returns to his country.

“We have hit Hamas very hard,” Netanyahu said. “We are determined to continue the campaign by all means for as long as it takes. We will not stop until we have assured full security and a quiet life for the residents of the south and for all Israelis.”

Netanyahu said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas can play a “constructive role” in halting the conflict, and that its end could provide an opening for renewed peace talks.

“I will look forward to restarting peace negotiations with a Palestinian government committed to peace with Israel, to the end of terror, to fulfilling the previous obligations that we have,” the Israeli leader said in the statement. “And I think this is part and parcel of the larger picture that I’m talking about. We have to think carefully how we tie in the new circumstances to the advantage of peace and against terror.”

The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks began in July 2013 and collapsed in April when Israel reneged on a previously scheduled prisoner release and Abbas formed a unity government with Hamas.

In another statement Wednesday, Netanyahu said one of Israel’s accomplishments during the conflict has been “achieving a new diplomatic horizon for the State of Israel.” Previously, the prime minister has noted an alignment of interests between Israel and certain neighboring states such as Egypt.

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