Defense minister launches offensive against education minister over Gaza

Liberman shoots back at Bennett for criticism of army’s response to spiraling protests, says, ‘As far as I’m concerned the man has been deleted’

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits at the Quneitra Crossing on the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, September 27, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits at the Quneitra Crossing on the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, September 27, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman declared Tuesday that he had “deleted” Education Minister Naftali Bennett from his mind after the latter accused him of failing to resolve ongoing violence along the border with the Gaza Strip.

“Bennett doesn’t care — neither about education nor about security. As far as I’m concerned the man has been deleted; starting tomorrow he simply does not exist,” Liberman told Israel Radio.

Bennett, the chairman of the Jewish Home party, had on Sunday slammed Liberman’s policy on Gaza, saying it was insufficiently aggressive toward the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip.

“Bennett is brazenly lying,” Liberman said. “What softness is he talking about? Just last Friday seven rioters were killed and over 500 injured and not a single Israeli was hurt.”

He made similar comments in interviews Tuesday morning with Army Radio and the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper.

A Palestinian protester throws a stone toward Israeli forces during clashes along the border fence, east of Gaza City on September 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

“The education minister doesn’t say a word about education and so it is clear that he doesn’t care about education or security,” he said. “There is a real dispute here — that will remain with us as we enter the election process — between a bizarre, sleepwalking, messianic right, and a responsible right. The question [is] whether we want a Jewish state or a bi-national state.”

Bennett, in response, told Army Radio that Liberman’s approach to Gaza would only elicit more violence from Hamas.

Bennett urged the IDF to adopt a policy of shooting directly at Gazans who launch incendiary balloons into Israel. Palestinians have sent thousands of such devices into Israeli territory over the past few months, starting fires that have burned thousands of acres of agricultural land and nature reserves, and causing millions of shekels in damage. The IDF has so far occasionally fired rockets close to balloon launcher cells or destroyed their vehicles and other infrastructure.

“The person responsible for security is Defense Minister Liberman,” Bennett said. “For the last half-year I have clearly said that the policy Liberman is leading is weak. The policy toward Gaza is a leftist policy that will ultimately lead to a full-on flareup. The situation will be unbearable.”

Education Naftali Bennett speaks to press prior to the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, September 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)

Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border fence Friday, throwing hand grenades, bombs, rocks, and burning tires in weekend clashes with IDF troops, who responded with tear gas, live fire, and airstrikes.

Seven Palestinians were killed, including a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old, and at least 210 Palestinians were wounded, including an 11-year-old boy, who was in serious condition, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. It said 90 of the wounded were hit by live fire.

The IDF said Saturday that the previous day’s protests were the worst in two months. More than 100 improvised bombs and grenades were hurled at Israeli troops during the riots, according to the army. The army released footage of the violent demonstrations, showing attempts to breach and sabotage the security fence.

The protest followed the breakdown of indirect talks with Israel over a ceasefire and warnings that the terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, was gearing up for another conflict.

Hamas, which actively calls for Israel’s destruction, has increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations against Israel, and created new units tasked with sustaining tensions along the border fence including during nighttime and early morning hours.

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union faction said that in the spat between Liberman and Bennett, “both are correct.”

“The government and the messianic right have no solution for security, and the security of southern Israel is deteriorating out of control,” Livni tweeted.

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