Israel missed golden opportunity to get rid of Hamas, Liberman says

FM keeps up criticism of government for failing to ‘finish the job’ in Gaza, says ‘alternatives to truce’ should have been presented

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Friday that Israel wasted a golden opportunity to eradicate Hamas from the Gaza Strip, maintaining his hard-line criticism of what he said he regarded as the government’s failure to “finish the job.”

The Yisrael Beytenu leader contended that uprooting Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since a violent takeover in 2007, wouldn’t have require reconquering the entirety of Gaza, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005. Liberman said it would have sufficed for Israel to take control of Hamas’s command, control and arms production centers in order to oust it from power.

The seven-week operation against Hamas left the Islamist group weakened, battered and bruised, but Israel needed to “finish the job,” Liberman told Channel 1.

Still, Liberman agreed with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that Israel chalked up a victory in Operation Protective Edge, telling his interviewer that when the result is so clear, there’s no need to ask who won.

The foreign minister was largely reiterating his position from earlier this week, when he castigated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for making a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, whom he called “contemptible murderers.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Liberman urged the 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.”

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.

Channel 2 reported Friday that Ya’alon and Liberman had a confrontation at a security cabinet meeting a day earlier in which Ya’alon blasted “the calls to reconquer Gaza , and some of these [calls] are no less than absurd.”

Liberman responded that in consultations with former senior officials in the defense establishment, he’d come to think that “alternatives [to the ceasefire deal] should have been presented.

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.

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