Liberman: Gaza cease-fire only possible after 'harshest blow' to Hamas
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman spoke on the conditions for a cease-fire with Hamas at the Maariv Conference in Jerusalem.
By TOVAH LAZAROFFUpdated: OCTOBER 16, 2018 02:58
A Gaza cease-fire understanding can only be achieved after the IDF deals Hamas a harsh military blow, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the Maariv Leaders Conference in Jerusalem.“In contrast to those who believe that an arrangement is possible with Hamas, I don’t believe there is any chance of this,” Liberman said.Israel cannot agree to Hamas’s terms for such a cease-fire understanding because those demands include the lifting of all Israeli restrictions on Gaza’s border, he said in advance of a renewed push by Egypt to restore calm between Israel and Hamas.Violence along the Israeli-Gaza has flared in recent days, with seven Palestinians killed Friday in clashes by the security barrier. On Monday, there was further violence along the border when two Palestinians placed an explosive device near the fence. An IDF aircraft struck at a Hamas terror location in southern Gaza in response.There was also a violent maritime clash during a protest on the Gaza beach, when fisherman tried to breach the naval blockade, the IDF said.It explained that the protest took place near the fence by the sea, with Palestinians throwing stones and burning tires.According to the Palestinian News Agency Wafa, some 24 Palestinians were injured by live IDF ammunition and dozens of other from tear gas during the demonstration, which they described as peaceful.Liberman told the Maariv conference and reporters who quizzed him at his faction meeting that the Egyptian-brokered talks had reached an impasse because Israel could not meet Hamas’s demands, and Hamas was not interested in accepting the three conditions laid out by Israel.Removing all restrictions on movement in and out of the Hamas-ruled enclave would mean an unregulated land and sea border by which Iranians, as well as any kind of arms and munitions could enter Gaza, Liberman said.Hamas wants to end the Gaza “blockade” without agreeing to Israel’s three demands which include the release of Israeli hostages from Gaza, a Hamas renunciation of its goal to destroy Israel and a pledge to demilitarize the Gaza Strip, he said.A deal without Hamas’s acquiescence to these three conditions “will never happen,” Liberman said.He clarified that he hasn’t given up on the possibility of a cease-fire understanding with Hamas along the lines of what existed after the 2014 Gaza war.But unlike those who believe a cease-fire can be negotiated, he holds that Hamas “has to be dealt the harshest blow we know to deliver, even if that means a comprehensive confrontation.We have to deliver a painful blow,” he said.Such a military confrontation would deter any further Gaza violence, Liberman said.Even then, he said, what would emerge would not be a formal cease-fire, but rather a restoration of quiet for four to five years.“There will be a price for such a military confrontation,” between the IDF and Hamas, Liberman said. The IDF is prepared for such an engagement, even if Hamas has acquired some advanced weaponry with a wider and more exact range than it had in the past.Still, “I believe where we have reached a crossroad where there is no other choice,” Liberman said.The defense minister clarified that the ultimate decision about what will happen with Gaza is up to Israel’s security cabinet, where options are divided over the best path forward.“Unfortunately, not everyone holds with my opinion,” he said.With regard to the recent diplomatic conflict between Moscow and Jerusalem over actions in Syria, Liberman told the Maariv conference that one should focus on the fact that the dialogue continued between the governments in spite of the tensions.Russia has legitimate national concerns, as does Israel, Liberman said.Israel does not intend to compromise on its security interests. “If those interests are threatened, we will act,” he warned.