In a frontal attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman voiced his opposition Wednesday to Israel’s ceasefire with Hamas, arguing that Israel should have rooted out the Gaza-based terror organization rather than sign an agreement with “contemptible murderers.”
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Liberman urged the Israeli government to “free the Middle East and the Palestinians from the threat of Hamas,” emphasizing that Israel must fight the terror organization “without compromises.”
“So long as Hamas controls Gaza, we cannot guarantee safety for the citizens of Israel and we cannot reach a political arrangement,” he said.
“Hamas is not a partner for any sort of deal, neither a diplomatic [agreement] nor a security [agreement]. We cannot trust contemptible murderers. Therefore, we oppose the ceasefire, under which Hamas will be able to continue to become stronger and wage another campaign against Israel at its convenience.”
He declared that Israel must ensure Hamas doesn’t benefit from the truce, and asserted that the attack tunnels and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip will remain a threat to Israel “as long as the Hamas regime is not overthrown.”
In the final days of Operation Protective Edge, Liberman, along with Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, publicly pressed Netanyahu to take a tougher stance against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Bennett reportedly expressed displeasure with Netanyahu for not allowing the security cabinet to vote on the Egyptian truce proposal before it was officially endorsed by the government. A number of cabinet ministers were thought to have been likely to vote against the move.
Last week, before the ceasefire took effect, Liberman said Israel’s main objective in its offensive against Hamas must be to defeat the Islamist terror organization and render the group incapable of orchestrating any further attacks against the Jewish state
“Our strategic goal as a state must be either to defeat or force the surrender of Hamas,” he 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.”
“Defeat means that Hamas has no ability to fire missiles, produce rockets or restore tunnels,” he said, arguing that such a goal was entirely realistic.
Across the political aisle, Meretz head Zahava Gal-on on Wednesday claimed that the ceasefire agreement was clear proof that Netanyahu’s strategy against Hamas had failed and said the prime minister deserved to be removed from his position.
“What we have seen in the last 50 days is a shameful result of a lack of political strategy on the part of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who made every mistake possible in the last two months,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “He should pay the price and go home.”
Gal-on further blasted Netanyahu for refusing to recognize a Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government headed by moderates in the spring, but negotiating with Hamas under fire in recent weeks.
“There is no clearer indication of the profound failure of his policy,” she wrote. “One thing is clear: the same agreements could have been reached months ago, with the moderates in the Palestinian Authority and not with Hamas, under fire — and without engaging in an unnecessary war for which we are paying a very heavy price in terms of lives lost, casualties, and soon enough, a heavy financial price as well.”
Her comments echoed those of opposition chief Isaac Herzog, who last week called for new elections following the end of Operation Protective Edge to allow the people to decide the direction of the country, particularly regarding whether or not to kick-start peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
But even as politicians scuffled over the ceasefire announcement, officials in the defense establishment praised the handling of the war, asserting that the ceasefire had severely weakened Hamas.
“They are extremely weak and they know it,” senior defense official Amos Gilad, one of the Israeli negotiators in Cairo, told Army Radio Wednesday. “There is no need to be impressed by the celebratory gunfire [in Gaza] and the statements by people who are even more extreme than the extremists. In all, everyone there understands what happened. The rehabilitation efforts are massive. They have brought disaster upon themselves.”
IDF Spokesman Moti Almoz chimed in that if Hamas were as successful as it boasted of being, it would not have “begged” for a truce on Israel’s terms.
“If Hamas agreed to or begged for a truce, even after three-four days of … such effective mortar attacks, we have to ask, why agree to beg for a truce? I mean, is the truce really what Hamas was planning?” Almoz asked sarcastically, suggesting that the terrorist organization was driven to agree to the terms of the truce due to its weak position.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.