Israel’s objective in its offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip must be to defeat the Islamist terror organization and render the group incapable of orchestrating any further attacks against the Jewish state, Avigdor Liberman said Friday night.
“Our strategic goal as a state must be either to defeat or force the surrender of Hamas,” the foreign minister said during an interview with Channel 2. “Surrender means that Hamas raises the white flag and begs for a ceasefire without any preconditions and requirements,” he elaborated.
“Defeat means that Hamas has no ability to fire missiles, produce rockets or restore tunnels.” He said this goal was entirely “realistic.”
Liberman went on to heavily condemn Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who, the foreign minister asserted, has led an incitement campaign against Israel throughout the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.
“Abbas failed in Gaza and lost it to Hamas, he did not deliver the goods then and is incapable of doing so today,” Liberman charged. “While Hamas focused on terrorist actions, Abbas led a militant and inciting line against Israel.”
While insisting that he did not wish to attack Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Liberman criticized Netanyahu for what he called his indecisiveness with regard to Abbas and for entrusting the Palestinian leader with assisting in ending the conflict with Hamas.
“When Abbas formed a government with Hamas, Netanyahu insisted on not recognizing it, and now suddenly Abbas is a lifesaver?” Liberman asked. “It just doesn’t fit.”
On Wednesday, Netanyahu leveled heavy criticism at cabinet “colleagues” who have publicly spoke out against the government’s handling of Operation Protective Edge, telling them to show public support to the government, and leave aside their “empty slogans.” Though no names were mentioned, the criticism was widely believed to have been directed on the one hand at Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who have both repeatedly urged that Hamas be crushed in a dramatic military offensive, and on the other at Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who have pushed for a greater emphasis on a role for Abbas and the international community in resolving conflict.
Netanyahu urged ministers to do what he said he did in the past, as opposition leader or cabinet minister: “Give support and speak less.” The prime minister said ministers have had every opportunity to speak at 27 cabinet meetings since the start of the operation, but should not broadcast criticism in public.
Liberman said, in response, that he gives Netanyahu “full backing” but “it is my obligation to speak my mind… The cabinet must make a clear, determined decision. We can’t keep putting off a decisive strategy for this conflict.”
He said he had no desire to destroy the coalition, and was not going to resign. Just like ministers including Bennett, Lapid and Livni, he said, “I have a different stance” as to how the conflict with Hamas should be conducted.
Liberman also said that ultimately Israel needed to reach “a comprehensive political settlement with the Arab world.” Pushed repeatedly, he did not rule out Palestinian statehood. “We don’t control Gaza… Fatah controls half of the West Bank… We need a comprehensive solution with the Arab world,” said Liberman.