Lieberman offers to invest in Gaza in exchange for returning Israelis
In Arabic message aimed at Palestinian population, the defense minister promises seaport, airport, industrial zone and more jobs in Gaza, demanding the return of three Israeli civilians and two soldiers' bodies, as well as strip demilitarization.
As part of the deal Lieberman is offering, Israel would allow the construction of a seaport, an airport and an industrial zone in Gaza, as well as help create 40,000 jobs in the strip.
In exchange for that, the defense minister is demanding the return of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge and snatched up by Hamas, as well as three Israeli civilians who entered Gaza of their own volition—Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima.
Furthermore, Lieberman is demanding Hamas to demilitarize the Gaza Strip and remove an article in its charter calling for the annihilation of the State of Israel.
Lieberman's offer was posted in Arabic on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in an effort to create pressure on Hamas by the Palestinian population in the strip.
"There is no reason for the residents of Gaza to live in the 21st century under lesser conditions than in Judea and Samaria or in the Arab world," the defense minister said. "The Gazans must understand that Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last millimeter, is not the source of their suffering—it is the Hamas leadership, which doesn't take their needs into consideration. The moment Hamas gives up its tunnels and rockets, we'll be the first to invest."
Last week, IDF tanks and aircraft destroyed a total of six Hamas positions in Gaza after a rocket was fired from the strip toward the Hof Ashkelon area and Hamas militants opened fire on an IDF force working near the Gaza border fence.
Despite this escalation, Lieberman said on Thursday that Israel has no intention of launching a military campaign in the Gaza Strip, but threatened that "any provocation will be met with a powerful response."
The defense minister also spoke of the complete lack of trust between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, saying the solution to that is for Israel to ease economic restrictions and make trust-building economic moves.
"Economic stability and growth in Judea and Samaria are an Israeli interest, and that is why on this issue we are partners. I'd rather focus on points we already agree on and only later discuss what we disagree on," he said.
He stressed that his policy is to improve the life of Palestinians who are willing to coexist with the State of Israel.
"We need to meet them halfway on employment, permits and the ability to move freely," Lieberman said. "We've been made to live here together and that is why we should internalize that we must look for ways to cooperate and not fight."
Despite this, in addressing the Regulation Law, which retroactively legalizes government-backed Jewish outposts built on privately-owned Palestinian land, he insisted that "the settlements have never been an obstacle to diplomatic agreements or peace accords."
Lieberman, a resident of the settlement Nokdim, spoke about his relationship with his Palestinian neighbors in the nearby village of Tuqu'. "I see quite a few Palestinians who've been living next to us for decades. They're welcomed in the settlement and we have quite good relations with the Palestinians in the area," he said.
He concluded with a message to the Palestinians, saying: "We're open people. We must find the right formula that would allow the two peoples not only to exist but also prosper. When you reach an agreement with someone, it's not going to work if only one side is benefitting. The two sides need to benefit and feel like they've gotten a good deal."