Defense Minister Liberman calls on Hamas to disarm, vows airport in return

In an interview with COGAT, Liberman turned to the Palestinian leadership in Arabic, saying: "Let's talk." However, he was also quick to deny that the settlements ever posed a roadblock to peace.

Avigdor Liberman.  (photo credit: GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE)
Avigdor Liberman.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday turned to the Palestinian leadership to urge Hamas to lay down its arms in order to set the stage to facilitate direct negotiations and compromises between the sides.
Speaking Arabic as part of an interview published on the official website of COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), Liberman was quoted as saying: "Let's talk," in what some perceived as a genuinely diplomatic gesture.
He clarified that "once Hamas gives up the terror tunnels and the rockets, we will be the first to invest and build them a naval port, an airport and an industrial area."
According to the defense minister, Israel is capable of "immediately creating some 40,000 jobs for the residents of Gaza, assuming that Hamas will give up the clause of 'exterminating Israel,' will give up its terror tunnels, and of course, first and foremost- if [they] return the bodies of our soldiers and civilians who are being held captive by them."
Pointing to what he deemed the main cause for the rift between the Israeli leadership and its de facto Palestinian counterparts in Ramallah, Liberman also said that "the main problem between us is an utter lack of trust."
Liberman went on to express optimism regarding the option of a possible dialogue: "I would prefer, first of all, to focus on points of agreement, and only then to discuss what we don't agree on."
When asked about the Palestinians' dismay and concerns following the legislation of the Regulation Law (which retroactively legalized 4,000 settler homes built on privately-owned Palestinian land), Liberman denied the impact the law or the settlements enterprise have had on the peace process.
"The settlements have never posed as a roadblock to political agreements or to peace agreements."
What he did point at as the main problem obstructing the two sides from reaching an agreement was "a disgraceful financial state, unemployment, suffering and lack of an horizon."
The defense minister is en route to Germany, where he is slated to participate in the Munich Security Conference and carry a speech.
During his visit, Liberman is expected to convene with his American, British, German and Canadian counterparts as well as foreign ministers from across the world.