Claiming that the government has capitulated to terrorism, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation on Wednesday, one day after Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“I have tried to remain a faithful member of the cabinet and to make heard another view, even at a great electoral and political price,” Liberman said at a news briefing immediately following the faction meeting. However, Tuesday’s ceasefire with Hamas “cannot be interpreted in any way other than a capitulation to terrorism,” he added. “This will severely harm our security in the long run. The response that we gave to the 500 rockets shot from Gaza was not enough, to say the least. The South should come first. Our weakness is being broadcast to other fronts.”
Terrorists should not feel free to riot at the border or incite against Israel, Liberman added. “Hamas isn’t talking about coexistence and recognition of Israel,” he said. “They don’t want to reduce unemployment in Gaza.”
Ceasefire sparks protest in Israel, celebrations in Gaza, November 14, 2018 (Reuters)
Liberman asked the coalition to act swiftly to decide on a date for an election. “Don’t paralyze the country in the long term,” he said.
Asked why he did not quit after earlier ceasefires with Hamas, Liberman answered: “You can’t always get everything you want. As long as I could influence from the inside, I stayed. There were turning points that no longer allowed me to fulfill my role in the cabinet.”
Political jostling for the Defense Ministry has already begun, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and several Likud ministers claiming they are Liberman’s rightful heir.
However, there is also a chance that Netanyahu will choose to hold an election immediately, rather than try to keep the coalition together with a one-seat majority.
A senior Likud source said that there is no reason to call for an election, and that Netanyahu will retain the defense portfolio for himself.
Liberman’s announcement came less than 24 hours after the cabinet approved the Cairo-brokered ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza. While the Prime Minister’s Office said that cabinet ministers had unanimously agreed to the decision, four ministers declared that they had opposed the ceasefire: Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi).
“The statement about Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s alleged support for stopping the attacks in Gaza is fake news,” Liberman’s office said in response to the Prime Minister’s Office announcement. “The defense minister’s stand is consistent
and has not changed.”
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