Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israeli television on Friday that military operations in Gaza must continue “until Hamas waves the white flag.”
In an interview with Channel 2 that aired just a few hours after it was learned that a four-year-old boy succumbed to his wounds, which he sustained as a result of a mortar strike on a kibbutz near the Gaza frontier, Liberman said that the government needs to spell out “a strategic goal” that encompasses “defeating Hamas, bringing it to submission.”
“That means Hamas waves the white flag,” the foreign minister said. “That is a realistic scenario, and it must be a goal.”
Liberman told Channel 2 that Israel must aim for a complete demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. “That means Hamas would have no capability to fire missiles at Israel, no capability to manufacture missiles, and no capability to build tunnels,” Liberman said.
The foreign minister did not go into detail regarding which specific course of action is needed, though he did say that he has presented his views to the cabinet.
Liberman raised eyebrows during the course of this operation among observers who felt his implicit criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was inappropriate politicking at a time when soldiers were in combat.
“I have a responsibility to the voter to express my opinion,” Liberman told Channel 2. “I respect the prime minister, and we have a proper working relationship. We also have legitimate disagreements.”
The foreign minister said that the government “has no unified, cogent diplomatic policy,” and that he differs from the approach advocated by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, whom he said are content to “exchange blows with Hamas and wage a war of attrition until a cease-fire is reached.”
“The only alternative is to defeat Hamas, and make that the strategic goal,” Liberman said.
Liberman said “it shouldn’t take more than a week-anda- half” for Israel to “bring Hamas to submission.”
When asked if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a reliable partner, Liberman dismissed the idea.
“Abu Mazen failed,” Liberman said. “We gave him the keys to Gaza, and he failed there. He lost power to Hamas. He held talks with [prime minister Ehud] Olmert and [his foreign minister at the time, Tzipi] Livni, and nothing came of this. He can’t deliver the goods.”
The foreign minister said that Abbas was waging a diplomatic campaign against Israel in international institutions.
When asked about his remarks to The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon regarding the need for a regional diplomatic solution to the Israeli- Arab conflict, Liberman said that “the region was ripe” for “an overall arrangement,” which would include Arab states with which Israel presently does not have diplomatic relations.
“The overall regional solution would be a one-package deal that would encompass Israel, the Palestinians and the Arabs of Israel,” he said. “As the situation stands now, we do not control Gaza, and half of the West Bank is controlled by the PLO. We are ripe to reach an overall regional solution with the Arab world.”
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