‘This is actual surrender’: Liberman assails Netanyahu for Hamas policy

‘This is actual surrender’: Liberman assails Netanyahu for Hamas policy

Yisrael Beytenu chief says PM has consistently failed to bring security to the residents of the south and has ‘no answers or solutions’ to ongoing violence

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman speaks at a faction meeting at Neve Ilan west of Jerusalem, September 22, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman speaks at a faction meeting at Neve Ilan west of Jerusalem, September 22, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Amid an ongoing escalation of violence with Gaza, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a fierce Facebook post Wednesday, accusing him of “surrendering” to the Hamas terror group and of having “no answers or solutions” to the rocket fire on the south.

Writing on the second day of intense fighting with Palestinian Islamic Jihad following Israel’s targeted killing of the terror group’s commander Baha Abu al-Ata, Liberman assailed the prime minister for his repeated promises to destroy Hamas and restore security to the south of Israel, his current policy toward the Gaza rulers, and his ostensible lack of any long-term policy regarding the Strip.

“Over the years, in election campaigns, Netanyahu and his Likud members have emphasized that only they can eradicate Hamas’s rule. In fact, Netanyahu is only strengthening Hamas’s rule,” Liberman claimed, citing a campaign video put out by Netanyahu on the eve of the 2009 election in which he promised to “break Hamas rule in Gaza… and restore security to Israeli residents.”

“Until two days ago, the official policy of the State of Israel was that Hamas was the sovereign and was responsible for any rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, no matter who fired,” Liberman said. “Starting two days ago, Netanyahu granted Hamas an exemption. Hamas no longer bears any small or large responsibility in Gaza and any rocket fire at Israel by ‘rogue forces’ is not Hamas’s concern at all.”

Israeli tanks are pictured stationed near the border with the Gaza Strip on November 13, 2019. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israeli Air Force jets fired precision ammunition at a building in the Shejaiya area of Gaza City where PIJ senior commander Abu al-Ata was located, eliminating him and killing his wife, in a joint operation by the IDF and Shin Bet security service.

Since then, at least 250 rockets have been launched at Israeli communities, while Israel has carried out several rounds of targeted strikes on Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades targets.

Israel has, however, notably been refraining from conducting strikes against the Hamas terror group, the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip. In general, as Liberman said, the IDF’s modus operandi has been to attack Hamas targets in response to any violence emanating from the Strip, as it considers the terror group to be the sovereign of the enclave.

IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said Wednesday that Israel sent messages to Hamas, through unidentified third parties, urging the terror group to not take part in this round of fighting and that in return the IDF would not carry out strikes against it.

“This is an actual surrender to a terrorist organization,” Liberman charged. “Continuing the normalization policy will turn Hamas into a new Hezbollah on our southern border in three years.”

Liberman said that despite the Israeli response, “it is clear that another round of shooting is only a matter of time.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press after a security cabinet meeting following the escalation of violence in with the Gaza Strip at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on November 12, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Claiming for a second time that he had sought to carry out the targeted killing of Abu al-Ata last year when he was defense minister but Netanyahu blocked the operation, Liberman said that “targeted counterterrorism is a necessary condition but not enough to overcome the terrorist problem. Alongside the targeted assassinations that I demanded be renewed, a policy on Gaza must be formulated.

“To this day no one but me has tried to answer the question of what will bring about an end [to the problem] with Gaza. All my attempts to raise the issue for cabinet discussion and to formulate a different policy toward the Gaza Strip were blocked by Benjamin Netanyahu,” Liberman charged.

“Instead of finding a real solution, Netanyahu and his Likud friends are busy slandering all day. They have no answers or solution and are refusing to hold a substantive discussion on the situation,” he continued.

Liberman served as defense minister until last November when he announced his resignation, saying Netanyahu was “capitulating” to terror after a ceasefire was struck between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza following a fierce two-day barrage of over 400 rockets fired by Hamas and other terror groups toward Israel.

Liberman then pulled his Yisrael Beytenu’s six MKs from the coalition in protest of the government’s handling of border violence with the Gaza Strip, prompting the ongoing political crisis that could see the country head for a third round of elections in less than a year.

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