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Netanyahu, Liberman Spar Over 'Tough Talk'

A sharp exchange ensued between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Liberman over what ministers should say in public.
By Yaakov Levi
First Publish: 7/6/2014, 6:59 PM

Liberman and Netanyahu at a faction meeting earlier this year
Liberman and Netanyahu at a faction meeting earlier this year
Flash 90

A sharp exchange ensued Sunday between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman over the appropriateness of calling for tough measures against Hamas terrorists. Netanyahu said that he was “uncomfortable” with calls by ministers like Liberman for tough measures against Hamas, while the Foreign Minister said that Netanyahu was “just as guilty.”

Liberman, among other ministers, has consistently called for tough measures against Hamas. On Friday, he criticized the government for sending “quiet messages” to Hamas asking for quiet in Israel's south, instead of going full force into Gaza to destroy Hamas.

“How can it be that, after we have three boys kidnapped and murdered, and two consecutive weeks of rocket fire, Israel's approach is: silence will be met with silence?" Liberman asked. "Even while we visit here, Hamas continues to grow stronger, and produce an eight inch diameter rocket that can reach Tel Aviv and Gush Dan.We must accept the reality that this is a mistake," he added.

"Instead of dealing with the problem, we are rejecting the problem."

While the prime minister did not mention Liberman by name when he said he preferred that ministers not make aggressive comments, Liberman immediately picked up on the hint, “You should be the last one to criticize,” Liberman told Netanyahu. “You commonly call press conferences before cabinet meetings. I am only repeating what I always say.

“I am not taking advantage of any specific situation,” as Netanyahu was, Liberman said; unlike the Prime Minister, who made has called for tough measures against Hamas in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah (19), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Gilad Sha'ar (16), Liberman said he had been making the same calls even before the kidnappings.

“You are the one who says we must take a 'strong hand' against Hamas, but you do not follow up on that proclamation. You are in no position to give out grades for 'good behavior,'” Liberman added.

Liberman is far from the only minister to publicly demand action against Hamas. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) sharply criticized Israeli government policy on Saturday, insisting that it is responsible for the current salvo of rocket fire from Gaza. "The policy of all governments since Hamas took power in Gaza is the wrong policy," Katz began. "The security system has also become too conservative, and [neither] has come and taken revolutionary steps [to combat Hamas]."

"Israel should set a clear goal: to dismantle Hamas of its missile stockpile," he said. "We should criminalize the Hamas leadership, which is responsible for abduction and murder [of Israelis]."

Economics Minister and Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett also launched harsh criticism against the insistence on "restraint".

"The strategy of 'we will answer quiet with quiet' harms Israel's deterrence and allows Hamas to grow stronger from round to round," he said. "Restraint in the face of firing on women and children is not powerful. Restraint in the face of the murder of three children is weak." 

Gaza Arab terrorists continued to fire rockets at Israel Sunday. Twelve rockets struck Israel in total in the latest salvo, and landed in the Eshkol and Shaar Hanegev regions. One of the rockets exploded inside a Jewish community and caused a fire to break out. No one was hurt.

Terrorists have fired a total of more than 110 rockets at Israel in the escalation that took place in recent weeks, following the abduction and murder of three yeshiva students and the subsequent IDF operation against Hamas in Judea and Samaria. Most of these rockets struck empty spaces. Ten rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.