Avigdor Liberman .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
One day after the IDF and Gaza exchanged fire, including the harshest IDF response since the 2014 Gaza war, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel cannot be expected to sit quietly while Hamas rearms itself for further attacks on the country.
He made his remarks seemingly reluctantly after being repeatedly pressed at a news conference on Tuesday at the Havat Hashomer base in the Galilee while on tour with IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.
“You all know my views, and I do not need to add anything new,” Liberman said. “What needs to be understood is that my view is rehabilitation for disarmament... They cannot expect the State of Israel to let them rearm, to steal money from the citizens of Gaza.”
While the IDF refused to publicly comment on what targets it hit on Sunday afternoon and late Sunday night, it was clear that some of the targets were more important to Hamas operationally than some targets which the IDF may have hit in the past to retaliate for rocket attacks.
Addressing critics of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the defense minister asked rhetorically where all of the Gazans’ taxes go if they are not being used to rehabilitate civilians’ homes.
He then answered his own question, explaining that Hamas uses taxes and all external aid slated for rehabilitation to rebuild its tunnels and its attack forces’ capabilities.
Liberman complained that all Israeli, EU and UN assistance merely helps Hamas avoid investing in its own citizens, “because they know that if there is a crisis the State of Israel will fix the problem, the UN will fix the problem. They do not worry about their citizens, they worry about their tunnels and their rockets.”
The defense minister also addressed the ongoing fight between him and portions of the IDF and his predecessor Moshe Ya’alon, over the involvement of various IDF officers in community service for illegal African migrants.
In mid-August, Liberman attacked the volunteering of IDF officers at the Bialik-Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv to help care for the children of migrants. He said that IDF officers wishing to assist disadvantaged persons should focus on Israeli citizens, such as Holocaust survivors or poor citizens.
Ya’alon slammed Liberman for getting involved in smalltime politics instead of focusing on important security issues.
Other critics of Liberman said that one can show concern for migrants and their children on a human level while they are here, without taking a political position on how the country should address their presence long-term.
Responding to that attack, Liberman said that the IDF itself must stay out of “issues which are in dispute” such as the migrants issue.
Moving on to the make-up of the IDF, Liberman took a strong stand on maintaining the draft and against moving toward a solely professional volunteer army, even as recent policies have reduced service time for draftees.
He also attacked multiculturalism in the IDF saying there is no place for it, and that the IDF’s success was as a melting-pot for all sectors of Israeli society – often helping weaker sectors climb up the socio-economic ladder.