"One ofIsrael's biggest
mistakes was to allow Hamas
to take control over the Gaza Strip in 2007," senior Defense Ministry official Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad said Monday.
Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, told a Tel Aviv University conference on Lebanon that the lslamist group is looking to expand its sphere of influence to the West Bank and promote terror activity there as well.
"Hamas' strategic objective is to seize control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization," he said. "This remains Hamas' vision – to take control over the PA by way of elections, remove (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and make the West Bank its base.
"Hamas is sincere enough to say that this is its plan, and the group refuses to make any statements, even vague ones, regarding the possibility of peace. At most they are willing to mention a possible ceasefire," according to Gilad. "Therefore, the cooperation between Hamas, Hizbullah
and Iran is stronger than ever."
The defense official stressed that the IDF's recent offensive in Gaza delayed Hamas' plans until January 2010 "at the earliest".
As for Hizbullah, Gilad told the conference that the Shiite group was "turning Lebanon into a major threat for Israel because it has Iran's support."
"Iran is determined to pose an existential threat for Israel. You don’t have to be a genius to come to this conclusion. (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad has said so himself," he said.
"The goal is to create a balance of terror. Towards this end, what can be referred to as 'Hizbullistan' is being established in Lebanon. This entity is based on a military wing – which is meant to assist Iran should Israel attack – and a rocket arsenal, which consists of some 40,000 projectiles."
According to Gilad, Hizbullah's short-term goal is to increase its influence in the Lebanese parliament. "Strategically, Hizbullah wants a new Middle East, with Israel as the target," he stated.
"We must not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weaponry, because this will bolster the 'radical axis'. Regarding Lebanon, I believe Hizbullah is reframing from firing rockets at Israel not because they are deterred, but because Iran is counting on them in case Israel strikes."