Liberman rejects criticism from ‘impatient’ Israelis urging harsher Gaza policy

Addressing new IDF pilots in ceremony in the south, defense minister says ‘serious policies can’t be a reaction to pressure from the public’

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in Katzrin, May 11, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in Katzrin, May 11, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday responded to criticism from Israelis who are urging the government to take harsher measures against terrorists in the Gaza Strip, saying that policies can’t be a reaction to the “impatient” public.

“Israelis are impatient. We want everything immediately — ‘war now,’ ‘military victory now,'” Liberman told new IDF pilots at a ceremony at the Hatzerim airbase marking the end of their training course. “But serious and responsible security policies cannot be a response to pressure from the media or the public.”

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched countless kites, balloons, and inflated latex condoms bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, into Israeli territory, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks, and forests.

Israeli leaders have been split on how to respond to those responsible for the airborne arson attacks, with some calling for the IDF to shoot the kite flyers and balloon launchers on sight, while others argue that it would be a step too far.

“Trust us that we are taking responsible and level-headed action, in accordance with Israel’s interest,” Liberman said. “We intend to lead, not follow. We will do what we need to do, when and where we need to do it.”

Israeli Air Force new pilots throw their hats in the air during their graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev Desert on December 29, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Addressing the new pilots, he added: “When I stand before you now, I see the squadron commanders of the next decade. I see the best defense force in the world, in the most powerful army in the Middle East.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke at the event, telling the pilots that “the Air Force is stronger today than ever. We are equipping it with the best weapons and technologies, and above all we are equipping it with the best people Israel has.”

Netanyahu dedicated a significant portion of his remarks to the Iranian threat — a common theme he has brought up repeatedly in Israeli and international forums in recent years.

He said those efforts are bearing fruit, as evidenced by “the abandonment of the Iranian market by companies and states and the mass demonstrations in Iran.”

On the Gaza Strip front, where several recent flareups have threatened to escalate into a full-blown war, the prime minister said that “this is not the place to outline our plans. I’ll just say this: Whoever drags us to battle will very sorely regret it.”

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