A senior Israeli minister said Sunday that the top decision-making security cabinet hasn’t heard a single proposal to overthrow Hamas in the Gaza Strip for the last three years.
Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the government’s “endgame” for Gaza was the toppling of its Hamas terrorist rulers to allow the Palestinian residents of the coastal enclave to enjoy the economic benefits of peace with Israel.
“I have been a member of the cabinet for more than three years,” Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio. “There are many operative plans, including some with the goal of toppling Hamas, but no plan to topple Hamas has been placed on the cabinet’s agenda in the last three years.”
“Therefore, we need to make a strategic decision how to relinquish civil responsibility for Gaza,” Katz added.
Katz also criticized Liberman for saying Friday that he has “nothing to do” with any talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza.
Speaking during a visit to the communities in the Gaza periphery, Liberman said he is “not involved” with and does not believe in an accord with Hamas — which is avowedly committed to Israel’s destruction — and that “the only accord is the reality on the ground.”
In response, Katz said that “all Israeli citizens should feel bad if that is the announcement that was made. The issue of Gaza requires thought and decisions.”
Katz also implied Liberman’s remark wasn’t truthful.
“I don’t need to leak from cabinet meetings that the defense minister is involved in what’s happening,” he said. “Of course he’s involved.”
Reports have proliferated that Israel is in advanced talks with Hamas, via UN and Egyptian mediation, for a long-term truce in the Strip.
Liberman’s denial of involvement in such a deal also appeared to contradict the assertions of fellow security cabinet member Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, who has heavily criticized the defense minister for what he has seen as a faulty strategy in Gaza — and has vowed to oppose any accord with Hamas.
Bennett alluded to that earlier criticism in an ironic response to Liberman’s Friday comments.
“It’s nice to see that the defense minister agrees with our point of view and understands that Hamas must not be allowed to extort us,” he said in a statement.
Liberman himself has acknowledged that UN and Egyptian mediation are taking place in an effort to secure a calm.
Gaza has seen a surge of violence since the start of the violent “March of Return” protests along the border in March. The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated, have included the throwing of rocks and explosives at troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.
Palestinians in Gaza have also launched incendiary airborne devices toward Israel, burning thousands of acres of forest and farmland resulting in millions of shekels of estimated damages.
At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the clashes, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. An Israeli soldier was shot to death by a Palestinian sniper. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the Palestinian casualties were members of terror groups.
Additionally, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of brief exchanges of fire in recent months that have seen terror groups in Gaza launch hundreds of rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory, including one earlier this month that was the largest flareup in violence since the 2014 war.
UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov and Egyptian officials have been seeking to broker a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.