Hamas members and Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will halt all financial payments to Gaza in the future and in so doing attempt to push Israel into war with Hamas, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned on Thursday morning as he addressed the annual Herzliya Conference.
“I have no intention of initiating any military activity, not in the summer and not in the fall, not in the south and not in the north. Our objective is to prevent war and the only way to do that is through credible deterrence.”
Liberman blamed internal Palestinian politics for creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza so that its two million residents have been living on four hours of electricity a day.
“We do not have to enter Gaza forcibly,” he said, as a result of the power play between Fatah and Hamas, but that does not mean the crisis would be resolved anytime soon.
Israel this week cut the electricity it supplies Gaza from 120 MW to 80 MW, according to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company.
Israel reduces power supply to Gaza, as Abbas pressures Hamas (credit: REUTERS)
Israel did so at Abbas’s request, after he said he would only pay NIS 25 million out of a NIS 40m. bill to Israel Electric Corporation, which has been Gaza’s main provider of electricity over the last two months.
Palestinians in Gaza did not feel the loss because Egypt this week sent diesel fuel into Gaza through the Rafah crossing, something it has not done in 10 years.
The fuel allowed the Gaza power plant to partially resume operations, producing 45 MW of electricity after a twomonth shutdown.
The Gaza electricity company said the fuel could make it possible for people in the Strip to receive six hours of power a day. The plant closed in April when it could not pay the onerous tax Abbas had imposed on the diesel fuel for the plant.
Depriving Gaza of electricity is one Abbas’s tactics to weaken Hamas, so he can regain control of the Strip a decade after Hamas ousted Fatah in a bloody coup.
In the last couple of months, Abbas has also stopped sending medication to the Gaza Strip and has cut payments to the governmental employees there.
Such steps are “not a tactic that he plans to use only once,” Liberman said as he warned the situation would get worse.
With regard to the electricity, he said Abbas “has not made a one-time reduction. He will continue to reduce payments and to stop payments all together in a few months both for the fuel and the medicine and payments of [civic salaries].”
Abbas has taken this step unilaterally without consulting Israel, Egypt or Jordan, Liberman said. “He is saying that they are just trying to weaken Hamas.” But the only logical conclusion is that there is a double strategy here in which Abbas is crippling Hamas also out of a hope that “he will drag Hamas into a conflict with Israel.”
With regard to Israel’s northern border, Liberman warned that Hezbollah was using the Syrian conflict to develop another front against Israel on the Golan Heights and is increasing its presence along Israel’s Lebanese border.
“Hezbollah is making use of the situation to smuggle advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Liberman said. “I would like to clearly warn the Syrian regime, which is encouraging Hezbollah and Iran, to turn Syria into a base against Israel.”
“The Syrian regime has to take responsibility,” Liberman said, adding that arms could not continue to be smuggled to Hezbollah in Beirut.
“The international airport in Damascus cannot be the primary location for smuggling and certainly they cannot provide Hezbollah with weapons.
“We are doing everything in our power to create deterrence,” Liberman said adding that at the same time, if action was required Israel would not hesitate to act.
The United States, Russia and Syria are holding talks with regard to safety zones in that area, he said. But such an agreement would not “prevent our freedom of action, as “the IDF retains its “freedom of action” if it feels that it needs it “to ensure Israel’s security.”