Liberman: Israel should consider reoccupying Gaza in response to rocket fire

FM's remarks come hours after the IDF attacks 12 targets in Gaza in two waves of air strikes in response to rockets.

Israeli F-16 fighter jet. [File] (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli F-16 fighter jet. [File]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday Israel was “prepared to expand” the IDF’s operations in Gaza if need be, even as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said only a fullscale reoccupation of the region would end the rocket fire.
Netanyahu, discussing at Sunday’s cabinet meeting the weekend’s rocket attacks from Gaza and the IDF’s response, said that since the establishment of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, the Palestinian Authority is for all practical purposes responsible for preventing firing from its territory onto Israel.
Netanyahu further said that with the weekend publication of the names of the Hamas men suspected of kidnapping Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel, it is clear that if PA President Mahmoud Abbas wants to move the diplomatic process forward, he needs to dissolve his pact with Hamas.
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“Abu Mazen [Abbas] says that he opposes abductions; he says that he wants to proceed on the path to peace,” Netanyahu said.
“If he stands by what he says, there is only one way to advance peace – and that is to tear up his agreement with Hamas.”
Lieberman, speaking in an Army Radio interview Sunday, went even farther regarding Gaza, and reiterated a position he has stated before: that in order to end the tit-for-tat operations in Gaza, Israel will have to go in and take over the region.
“This exchange of blows has turned into a ritual,” Liberman said of the weekend attacks, followed by the IDF response.
“We need to understand that after we did two operations – Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense – the real alternative is the full occupation of the Strip, “ he said.
Liberman said Israel had to either reconcile itself to a periodic “exchange of blows” with the terrorist organizations in Gaza or take a strategic decision to “clean out” the Strip. He pointed out Hamas has built up its might to a degree whereby it no longer needs to smuggle missiles in from Sinai that can hit Israel, but is producing them itself in plants built beneath schools and infirmaries.
“There is no third alternative,” he said. “We either have to completely occupy it, or reconcile ourselves to the types of rounds that we see today.”
He said he does not know of a single “normal country” that would tolerate the nightly firing of rockets onto its sovereign territory.
Liberman is scheduled to meet in Berlin Monday with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and push his idea of ditching the notion of reaching a separate Palestinian-Israeli accord, and focusing instead on a comprehensive regional agreement and new regional structure that would incorporate Israel on the side of moderate Arab states against extremists.
Liberman said there was now an unprecedented commonalty of interests between Israel and moderate Sunni states in the region, who are equally concerned with Israel about the threats from Iran, as well as threats from the al-Qaida-led and inspired global Jihadists.
He said the moderate Arab states – which he did not name but are believed to include Jordan, Egypt and the Persian Gulf countries – understand the need to work with Israel.
“They understand in theory, and even agree,” he said. “But psychologically and practically they don’t have the courage” to “cross that line” and cooperate openly with Israel. For that “we need the help of the US and western Europe, by which I mean the Berlin-Paris axis.”
Liberman’s trip to Berlin follows by just a few days a trip to Paris, where he met US Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. There, too, he promoted the idea of a comprehensive regional agreement.
From Berlin Liberman is set to travel to Prague for high-level meetings.