Lieberman: Serious blow to Hamas will get us 5 years of quiet
The defense minister continues calling for military campaign in the Gaza Strip, insisting Israel has exhausted all other options; 'We are not willing to accept the level of violence we see one week after another,' he says during visit to Gaza Division.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his position on Tuesday that only a "serious blow" to Hamas will put an end to the violent rioting on the Gaza border and the arson terrorism.
"We are not willing to accept the level of violence we see one week after another," the defense minister told reporters during a visit to the Gaza Division, adding "a serious blow to Hamas could bring us at least five more years of quiet."
The defense minister held a situation assessment at the Gaza Division with deputy IDF chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Gaza Division commander Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, and brigade and battalion heads in the division. Later, he also met with the combat soldiers.
"The defense establishment has done everything to reach the situation before March 29, before the violence (on the border) broke out—we did this our way, by using force, by using persuasion, by cooperating with those who wanted to help," he explained. "There were all sorts of attempts to reach an arrangement led by Egypt and the UN and UN envoy. We tried all of the other ways, I didn't see any results unfortunately."
The "serious blow" he's calling for "must be a decision of the Cabinet. Unfortunately neither the defense minister nor the prime minister can make such a decision on their own."
Lieberman explained the last straw was last Friday's rioting, when "after allowing the UN to bring in four tankers of gas (into Gaza) in the morning, in the evening we got a wave of violence, at a level I don't remember."
He also quoted Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyeh, who said neither fuel nor salaries will stop the violence.
"Their goal is to lift the siege, which means one thing: uninterrupted free ability to bring in weapons, Hezbollah fighters, Iranians into the Gaza Strip—and we will never allow that," Lieberman said.
"They want to get salaries, fuel, all of the benefits without giving anything back, without an arrangement on the MIAs and POWs, without giving up the article in their charter that calls for the annihilation of the State of Israel, and of course without giving up the manufacturing of weapons and the digging of tunnels," the defense minister explained. "To me, there's only one formula: reconstruction in return for disarmament."
Lieberman accused Hamas of inflaming the tensions. "15,000 people don't just come of their own accord to the border fence. Hamas is bringing them, paying for the buses, Hamas members go out and call on residents to get in the buses, then they drive them there. Hamas set up tents there and is trying to turn it into an event. This isn't the spontaneous action of innocent residents; it's the Hamas members who bring people almost by order. Had Hamas not paid for the transportation, no one would've come on foot to the border," he asserted.
"They think they figured out a new trick—putting pressure on the Israeli government, on Israeli society. They think they're eroding our steadfastness, our deterrence," Lieberman added. "It's time to put an end to it."