A harsh IDF military strike against Hamas is the only way to halt the continued Palestinian attacks against Israel, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday morning as he met in the south with some of his top military staff.
“Now is the time for decisions. My position is very clear: We must deal a heavy blow against Hamas. This is the only way to return the situation to its previous state and to reduce the level of violence to nearly zero,” Liberman said.
His statement echoed words he had issued already on Monday, both in the Knesset and at the Maariv Conference in Jerusalem.
Liberman has been among the most hawkish voices on the issue of the continued low level Gaza violence that began on March 30. It has included Palestinian riots along the Gaza border, infiltrations into Israel and the launching of flaming devices that have burned thousands of acres of land on the Israeli side of the border.
The security cabinet, however, has not taken a decision to launch a military operation. Egypt this week is making another attempt to broker a cease-fire understanding between Israel and Hamas.
Liberman acknowledged that a Gaza military operations must come after “a decision of the entire cabinet.”
"Everyone understands that the situation today cannot continue. We cannot accept violence week after week. The Defense Ministry has used kid gloves before the violence broke out [on March 30], including with international organizations. We have exhausted our options,” Liberman said.
He explained that he became convinced of the necessity of a military strike after Hamas responded with violence to Israel’s humanitarian gesture last week. To help alleviate the electricity crisis in Gaza, Israel facilitated the transfer into the Strip of a large shipment of Qatari funded fuel for the Gaza power plant.
“The change came last Friday. We allowed tanks of diesel to enter Gaza and, in return, were facing the kind of violence that we have not seen in a long time. We also saw [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh saying
: ‘Diesel and salaries are not going to stop the violence until the blockade is lifted.’”
Liberman said that fully opening Gaza’s borders without any inspection mechanism would allow for Iran to strengthen its influence on the Strip and would facilitate a heavy influx of arms.
“This means Iranian weapons and Hezbollah fighters to Gaza. When Hamas says this, we must accept it as it is, without exegesis. We have paid a heavy price for such interpretations in the past, including in the 1930s."
“The only formula in my opinion is rebuilding in exchange for disarmament. At the moment, we need to make decisions, and I hope the cabinet will make decisions. The only way is a heavy blow that can, in my opinion, lead to five years of quiet,” Liberman said.
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