Lieberman: Time has come to hit Hamas with 'hardest blow'
The defense minister insists that after months of violent border riots and incendiary balloon terror, Israel has exhausted all options and reached the point of no return; believes Netanyahu should not resign despite prime minister's multiple corruption investigations.
The defense minister explained that the violent rioting along the Gaza border fence and incendiary balloon terrorism have left Israel no choice.
“We have turned every stone, and we have passed the point of no return… We have reached the stage where we must deliver the hardest blow imaginable on Hamas,” Lieberman said.
"Before we go to war in Gaza, we must exhaust all other options, which we made every effort to do … we tried to exhaust every possibility," he explained.
"When you send soldiers into battle, you understand that some of them might not come home. So, we must exhaust every other possibility. When I accepted the position of defense minister, I said that Israel does not have the luxury of fighting wars if there is an alternative—only when there is no choice,” he emphasized, adding that “the Cabinet will have to decide” on whether the potential military operation will go ahead.
"Hamas has turned the border violence into a strategic weapon, through which they hope to erode our deterrence and put pressure on both the Israeli public and the government," the defense minister explained.
“Hamas is determined to continue the violence until the blockade is fully lifted without reaching an agreement, especially regarding prisoner exchange, and without giving up on the main article in their charter—the destruction of the State of Israel,” he went on to say.
On Friday, a group of terrorists blew up a hole in the border fence and began advancing on the Israeli soldiers. The troops opened fire, leading most terrorists to return into the strip, and killed three that continued advancing.
Lieberman refused to say whether this was an attempt to capture an IDF soldier. "There really was serious violence, including planting an explosive, entrance into Israeli territory, and it ended as it ended. Not a single civilian so much as scratched," he said, adding Hamas leader "Haniyeh led the rioting, and we acted properly."
Following the border violence on Friday, the defense minister ordered a halt in fuel supply to Gaza. "In the morning we approved to let in four gasoline tanks into the Gaza Strip. In the evening we got four fires, 14 launches of incendiary balloons, balloons with explosives, (and) 16,000 people rioting on the border. And so as long as there's violence and rioting, there will be no fuel," he explained.
The defense minister also addressed the claims made by senior IDF officials that suggested there were shortcomings when it comes to the military's war readiness—which is not sufficiently reviewed.
"The IDF has not been better prepared for war since 1967. Of course, when you talk about a huge mechanism such as the IDF—with 700,000 people and tens of thousands of pieces of equipment—there is always something to improve … and partly, I accept the criticism,” he allowed.
The defense minister, who has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment to terrorists, explained such a move would require a change in policy, which the Cabinet needs to decide on. At present, the attorney general's opposition to giving the death penalty to terrorists prevents judges from being able to hand down such a sentencing.
Addressing tensions in the coalition over the IDF draft bill, Lieberman said he was certain the legislation will be easily passed.
"I don't think elections right now are the most necessary thing for the State of Israel," he stressed, "precisely because of the (security) situation in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, a very complex situation in the north."
He insisted there would be no changes to the proposed legislation, which led Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman to threaten to resign.
"I think even the representatives of the ultra-Orthodox parties understand this is the only possible option. This is an entire thing, as soon as you start removing one screw and then another, the whole thing might collapse," Lieberman said.
He did not want to address the tensions with Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, whom he labeled "a hilltop youth from Ra'anana," and said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should not resign from his position due to investigations into corruption allegations and should only consider that option once the final verdict is reached.