Defense Minister:
'We have exhausted all options - time to hit Hamas hard'

Liberman holds security assessment in Gaza region, hinting at disagreements within cabinet. 'I hope cabinet will make the right decision.'

Ido Ben Porat ,

Liberman in Gaza Division
Liberman in Gaza Division
Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman held an assessment of the situation in the Gaza Division with Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Southern Command Commander Major General Herzi Halevi, Commander of the Gaza Division Brigadier General Yehuda Fuchs, and brigade and battalion commanders, later meeting with soldiers.

"We are not prepared to accept the level of violence that we see week after week, and right now we must understand the other side as well - we, the State of Israel, the defense establishment, did everything in order to reach the situation of March 29, before the outbreak of the violence, pleasantly,” Liberman said.

"Whether in the use of force, or in persuasion, or in cooperation with the international community and UN institutions and with anyone who just wanted to come and help solve the problem. We have exhausted all the options, all the possibilities, and now the time has come to make decisions."

Liberman made it clear that this position is what he says from every platform. "We must strike Hamas hard, and this is the only way to bring the situation back to normal and lower the violence threshold to 0 or almost 0, or to the level of March 29. This must be a cabinet decision, unfortunately, neither the defense minister nor the prime minister, nor the prime minister together with the defense minister, alone can make such a decision."

He explained why he changed his attitude toward terror in Gaza. "When I'm asked what has changed, what happened suddenly, why now, there's always a moment when you have to make a decision. For me, this moment is what happened last Friday. After we allowed UN personnel to bring in four fuel tankers in the morning, in the evening we received a burst of violence, a wave of violence to an extent that I do not remember for a long time."

The defense minister mentioned the statements made by Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyeh, who said that "Neither fuel nor salaries will stop the use of violence by Hamas. Our goal is to get the blockade lifted.”

According to Liberman, "Lifting the blockade has one meaning: a free and unfettered ability to bring in weapons, to bring Iranian Hezbollah fighters into the Gaza Strip, and that is what we will never agree to. You have to understand that there are all sorts of commentators and I hear, 'Yes Haniyeh says they will not stop, but he says it only on the outside, he has to appease public opinion inside, inside the Gaza Strip.' I think that this is the genetic defect of the Jewish people - we always try not to listen to what the other side says, and constantly try to interpret it differently.”

"I suggest we take things at face value. When Hamas says, 'We will not give up the use of violence on the fence until you remove the blockade,' you have to accept it as it is without interpretation. For these attempts to interpret, in history we paid too heavy a price, even in the 1930s, and I remember at the end of the seventies with the rise of Khomeini to power in Iran. You have to accept things at face value. When Hamas says they will never agree to stop the violence on the fence without the lifting of the blockade, then I take the words as they are. And again they want to get salaries, fuel, all the benefits without giving anything, without an arrangement on the subject of captives, without giving up the central clause in their covenant - the destruction of the State of Israel, and of course without giving up weapons production and digging tunnels.”

He hinted at disagreements in the cabinet regarding the desired action in Gaza. "As far as I am concerned, there is only one formula: rehabilitation in return for demilitarization. We tried all the options, I said, I think that we have reached the end of this stage. At the moment, we have to make decisions and I hope that the cabinet will make the right decisions."