As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to speak of relatively narrow goals for Operation Protective Edge – restoring quiet and significantly damaging Hamas’s infrastructure – Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is publicly calling for the toppling of Hamas.
Saying that Israel has no “good options” in Gaza, Liberman said the “right option” is not to agree to a cease-fire but “to topple the Hamas government, to remove them from the region.”
Liberman, in a Ynet interview, said he realizes this would be complicated “and looks frightening,” but that “the alternative is even worse.”
If Israel does not take this action now, he said, it will need to do so in another number of months, when it may face even worse conditions.
Netanyahu has been very clear as to what he views as the objectives of the operation, repeating them in a conversation Monday with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“The goals,” he said, “are to restore quiet to Israeli cities for a long period of time, and to substantially hit the terrorist infrastructure.”
The Prime Minister’s Office had “no comment” when asked about Liberman’s more expansive goals. One official said Liberman was expressing his “own opinion,” and that Netanyahu has made clear what his goals are.
Liberman is a member of the eight-person security cabinet.
The foreign minister, who has been advocating retaking Gaza for some time, and who last week broke his political alliance with Netanyahu because he felt the prime minister was not acting assertively enough against Hamas, said that before going into Gaza, it would be necessary to know to whom to give control over the area, once Hamas was ousted.
“What we learned from Beirut, from Iraq, is that it is not enough that you topple a dictator or terrorist group,” he said. “We got rid of [Muammar] Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, but today you are in a worse position.”
Liberman said that there were “clear answers” to whom Israel should hand over control of Gaza after Hamas is run out, but he did not provide any details. He did not indicate, however, that he would be in favor of handing the area over to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying – in reference to the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007 – that he already lost the “keys” to Hamas once.
Liberman said that both the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the Oslo Accords were based on the idea of reversibility of the process. Whenever former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin or Ariel Sharon were asked what would happen if the Palestinians would fire rockets from Gaza, “the answer was that we will take it over,” Liberman said.
Liberman said that even if Israel would retake Gaza, it would not rebuild the settlements there.