Before he resigned as defense minister, Avigdor Liberman lashed out last month at IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and likened top military brass to the left-wing NGO Peace Now for opposing a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Israeli television news reported Thursday.
Liberman, who subsequently quit and accused the government of “capitulating to terror,” reportedly made the remark during a closed meeting with IDF top brass during a heated discussion regarding a flareup on the southern border.
Eisenkot had repeatedly voiced opposition to Liberman’s plan to launch a ground operation that would entail forces entering the Strip, saying such a move “isn’t justified since there’s nothing to benefit from that,” Hadashot and Channel 10 reported.
After a senior officer backed Eisenkot, Liberman told those in attendance that “I sometimes feel here like I’m in consultations with the management of Peace Now,” referring to an influential dovish group that frequently criticizes the government over its policies in Gaza and the West Bank.
Liberman responded to the reports by saying he “has never commented and won’t comment on closed military discussions, and also not on rumors and gossip.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose party has verbally clashed with Liberman since the latter resigned and left his coalition with the smallest possible majority in the Knesset, responded by condemning the remark.
“Such remarks are unacceptable,” Netanyahu said. “We must keep the IDF out of any political debate.”
Liberman resigned from the position of defense minister last month after Jerusalem agreed to a ceasefire following an intense two-day battle between Israel and Palestinian terror group Hamas. He cited the government’s Gaza policies, among other issues.
This notably included a decision to allow Qatar to provide the Gaza Strip with fuel and money — the latter included a $15 million transfer of cash sent into the coastal enclave in three suitcases last month.
The money was delivered days before a massive outbreak of violence on November 12 and 13, during which some 500 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israel. The flareup came a day after an Israeli special forces raid in Gaza went awry, leaving one Israeli soldier and seven Palestinians dead, including a Hamas commander.
On Monday, Liberman slammed the government’s policies toward Gaza and its terrorist rulers, saying Israel handed the Islamist group a decisive victory by rewarding it with Qatari money for leading clashes along the border over the past eight months.
“We came out of it like limp rags, like nerds,” Liberman said, speaking at an event in the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya’s Institute for Counterterrorism.
“Something we need to learn if we want to survive in this jungle known as the Middle East, you can’t give a prize for violence,” he said.
The Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Strip has largely held since the flareup last month, though low-level violence along the border has persisted, mostly in the form of rock throwing and the occasional improvised explosive attack against Israeli troops along the security fence.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.