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Minister of Finance Yair Lapid told Bloomberg News that the Israeli economy remains strong despite the fighting in the Gaza Strip. He stressed that the 21 days of conflict had not affected the Israeli economy’s strong foundations, and that his ministry was constantly monitoring the figures. He also addressed the strength of the shekel, saying that it provided additional proof that the campaign had not harmed Israel’s robust economy.

“This operation is not something that even touches the fundamentals of the Israeli economy,” Lapid said on Bloomberg’s Television’s Surveillance. “I’m more worried, if at all, by the decline of world trade.”

When asked how the war would affect the budget, Lapid answered, “We’ll make sure this operation is funded in 2014. We won’t let it slip into the 2015 budget,” adding that he did not think the conflict would require a tax hike.

Lapid said disarming Gaza should be a condition for repairing the damage caused by the fighting. “The equation should be rehabilitation for demilitarization,” he stated. “If they want Gaza to be rebuilt, then this is what we have to do.” The conflict has also killed 56 people on the Israeli side, including three civilians.

“Hamas used the humanitarian ceasefire to shoot at Israel,” Lapid told Bloomberg, adding, “Hamas is a terrorist organization for all intents and purposes, and is behaving like one.”

At the outset of the interview, Lapid dismissed reports of a rift between Israel and the U.S., thanking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his efforts to achieve a solution in the region, saying, “Kerry is a true friend of Israel.”

Lapid said that Israel had already agreed three times to a humanitarian ceasefire, and that Hamas had violated it every time, saying, “Hamas used the humanitarian ceasefire to shoot at Israel.”

Commenting on the attempts to arrange a ceasefire, Lapid said, “There’s an Egyptian proposal on the table. We already accepted this proposal a few days ago. The Egyptian proposal says there should be a ceasefire, and after we see that it holds, we’ll sit and discuss everything through Egypt with the help of the U.S., because this help is always welcome.”

Lapid said that Israel was demanding the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. “No country in the world would have accepted 2,500 rockets being fired at its civilians. There’s a will to rebuild Gaza. This is a possibility that can be discussed. We have no problem with the civilians in Gaza; we have a problem with Hamas.” He also commented on the tunnels, saying that Israel was fighting to destroy terror tunnels whose sole purpose was to murder Israeli women and children.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 29, 2014

By Moshe Golan and Globes correspondent

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