Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday strongly refuted claims that he had, for years, facilitated the financing and empowerment of Hamas as a strategy to create a "divide and conquer" situation between the Hamas government in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, labeling these allegations as "ridiculous."
Since the onset of the war, Netanyahu's political opponents have repeatedly pointed out that he permitted the transfer of "money suitcases" from Qatar into Gaza. These funds, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, were directed to the Hamas government.
"It’s a big lie that I wanted to build [up] Hamas. Ridiculous," Netanyahu told Politico in an interview. "You don’t go to war three times with Hamas or do major military operations if you want to build up Hamas."
Netanyahu claimed that Israeli governments under his leadership "wanted to avoid a civilian humanitarian collapse — disease, rampant hunger and other things that would have created an impossible humanitarian situation." According to him, "We didn’t want to strengthen Hamas at all. We wanted to weaken it and degrade its capabilities as far as we could."
Regarding the temporary cease-fire facilitating the release of hostages, Netanyahu stated that Israel will adhere to it as long as Hamas does the same. However, he emphasized that once the cease-fire concludes, Israel will resume its operations against the terrorist organization.
"Make no mistake: we shall continue our military efforts to eradicate Hamas, because Hamas says very clearly that it will repeat the savagery over and over and over,” he said.
The prime minister said that following Israel's campaign against Hamas, it will focus on two main objectives: the disarmament of Gaza and curbing extremism among its residents.
"Our goal is to make sure that Gaza does not revert to the kind of horrible threat it was to Israel before the war," he told Politico.
Yisrael Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman, an opposition lawmaker who previously served as defense minister under Netanyahu, disputed the Likud leader's claims, accusing him of trying to "buy peace" in Gaza due to fear of the repercussions of a large-scale war in the Palestinian enclave.
"Netanyahu, when you say that you tried to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, you know you are lying. All you wanted was to buy peace. You were afraid of war and chose shame. In the end, you received both shame and war, and caused the greatest humanitarian disaster in the history of the State of Israel."