Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Ynet on Monday that Israel must press on with its military operation in the Gaza Strip, or it will find itself in the same situation in the near future.
"If this operation ends now, it is clear to all that it would be just a break before the fourth operation – and that's not worth a thing," Lieberman said in an exclusive video interview as Operation Protective Edge went into its seventh day.
Lieberman also alluded to the possibility of an IDF ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, something which senior Israeli officials have long warned could happen if the rocket fire on Israeli communities did not cease.
Avigdor Lieberman in the Ynet studio
"You must understand that all options are on the table," Lieberman said.
The foreign minister also said that there were international efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's militant rulers Hamas. But he warned that Hamas would use such a truce as an opportunity to rearm.
"We feel that the international community is trying to bring peace at any price, and treat every proposal seriously," Lieberman told Ynet.
"During Pillar of Defense, we saw rockets reaching the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and now we see rockets reaching as far as Hadera (in the north). Hamas exploits every time out to produce more rockets and increase its range."
Egypt and other Arab states, as well as Quartet envoy Tony Blair, have been pushing for a crease-fire to end the current round of fighting, that has seen the IAF strike more than 1,000 targets in Gaza and Hamas and its allies fire more than 700 rockets at Israel.
Regarding a proposal for the demilitarization Gaza rockets, missiles and attack tunnels brought by MK Shaul Mofaz to the National Security Council, Lieberman aluuded to the fact that he believed this would not be possible.
"We are sensing real distress coming from Hamas. The question is whether it's enough for it to give up on central things – missile production and digging tunnels. Even if Hamas agrees to give up on one of them, I think it would be duplicitous. And a statement on its agreement (to these terms) would be important, but does it do it? Of course not. "
Lieberman also warned against a temporary fix to the situation, which he said would only blow up in Israel's face at a later stage.
"When you put off the problem and you do not solve it, it will later explode. You cannot make peace with Hamas. They do not want order. They say - 'We want to erase the Zionist entity.' We do not want to be the neighborhood bully, but Hamas is already preparing for the next round and will in any event prepare more tunnels and missiles, just more long-range and perhaps more accurate. The next round is inevitable."
Turning to the cabinet discussions about the continuation of the operation and the possibility of a ground incursion into Gaza, the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman said: "It has to be clear to Israeli citizens after three operations that we have won. Most importantly, we must both deny them the ability to attack us and prevent a fourth round. I'm not talking about winning or losing, we are now facing some difficult decisions. There are no good alternatives here. There are no good options.
The foreign minister also called for the removal of Hamas from the arena.
"I think the correct option is eradication of the Hamas rule," he said. "As complex or as scary as that is, the alternative is worse. I think it can be done. It's not easy, but it's possible."
He also warned that the militant organization was already planning for a future round of fighting.
"In any event, Hamas is preparing for the next round, making more tools and more tunnels, more accurate missiles with more explosives and longer range. Why wait? The next round is inevitable. No one is deluding themselves. "