Liberman rails against government for ‘limp rag’ Gaza policy
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Liberman rails against government for ‘limp rag’ Gaza policy

Former defense minister calls Israel’s responses to violence in the Strip a ‘catastrophe,’ reiterates opposition to allowing Qatari money into Hamas-run enclave

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Palestinians wave their national flags while others burn tires near the fence of Gaza Strip border with Israel during clashes east of Gaza City, on November 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians wave their national flags while others burn tires near the fence of Gaza Strip border with Israel during clashes east of Gaza City, on November 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday slammed the government’s policies toward Gaza and its terrorist rulers, Hamas, 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 says, 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.

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 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.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a conference in Netanya on November 22, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

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.

“Since March 30, Hamas has been using violence on the border, and we decided to pay them money to get back the calm,” Liberman said, referring to the start of weekly riots near the fence between Gaza and Israel that defense officials say are orchestrated by Hamas.

“If before March 30, Hamas had difficulties in terms of public opinion, since then, we have turned Hamas into a model for imitation,” Liberman said.

“The public support for Hamas has broken all records,” the former defense minister said, calling Israel’s response to the terror group “a catastrophe.”

The former defense minister made his remarks at an event hosted by IDC about negotiations during times of conflict.

In an on-stage interview, Liberman discussed the role of the two main negotiators in the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire: Egypt and the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.

Israeli security forces and firefighters gather near a bus set ablaze after it was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Palestinian enclave, at the Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, on November 12, 2018. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

“The Egyptians didn’t initiate [the negotiations with Qatar]. The person who started it is in fact UN Envoy Nicky Mladneov, with his direct contacts with the Qataris,” Liberman said.

“The Egyptians aren’t exactly great lovers of Qatar and aren’t close friends of Qatar, but they always want to be in the game,” the former defense minister 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.

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