Israel Has Reached 'A Situation of No Choice' With Hamas, Defense Chief Says

Avigdor Lieberman ties Gaza sanctions to border protests, saying he is 'trying to create a direct link between the level of violence and economic activity'

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Lieberman speaking with the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, today.
Lieberman speaking with the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, today.Credit: Emil Salman

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday that he doesn’t believe in reaching an agreement with Hamas. "It didn't work, it doesn’t work and it will not work in the future," he told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The State of Israel doesn't have the luxury to manage 'we have a choice'  wars and operations, but we have reached a situation of no choice. We have reached a point where decisions must be made," he added.

It was also reported Monday that a delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip to continue meeting with Hamas in order to attain a long-term calm in the region.

"There is no popular protest," Lieberman said. "There is the exacting of institutional violence by Hamas. They come in organized shuttles, with Hamas paying thousands of shekels for every bus. They pay 3,000 shekels ($820) for every man killed, 500 shekels for every severe injury and 250 shekels for every medium injury and below. This is institutionalized action."

Thus, Lieberman said, "There is a new tool here, a new apparatus. They're calling it the March of Return and that's how they exact violence."

The defense minister also addressed the sanctions leveled on the Strip by Israel following the protests. "We have Kerem Shalom [crossing] and we're using it. I am trying to create a direct link between the level of violence and economic activity. There is quiet and calm - there are economic benefits. There is violence - than there'll be damage to the ecomony and employment."

Lieberman also said Hamas encourages the murder of Jews in the West Bank. "Every Jew that's murdered in Samaria, Hamas commends it and hails to continue. In the settlement [currently being discussed] they will be allowed to incite and praise the murder of Jews, to manufacture weapons and dig tunnels. They don't need to reach an agreement on the issue of [Israeli] captives and missing persons - and we will supply them with everything."

On Sunday, Lieberman ordered the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings be opened to the Strip, as well as the resumption of fuel transfers.

According to Lieberman, the decision came following a security assessment with representatives of the Israeli army, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Shin Bet security service following "Hamas' efforts to contain violent incidents at the end of last week."

Security establishment officials said Friday's protest has been the most subdued in months. Hamas operatives markedly prevented people from crossing the fence and acting in ways which would provoke an escalation.

On Sunday, it was posited that defense officials are expected to take advantage of the relatively subdued nature of Palestinian protests on Friday to try and resume the supply of fuel to the enclave.

When asked by Haaretz about the discrepancy between his bureau's statement that he supports the eviction of the West Bank Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, and the fact he voted to postpone it, Lieberman said: "What is interesting is that no one dealt with this issue until I assumed office, no one dealt with it," referring to unnamed "hitchhikers" who straddle the issue to score political points.

"I am also trying to do it and to do it right. Once the cabinet approved the eviction of Khan al-Ahmar it's an irreversible process. When will it be? We're not going to announce it in the press," Lieberman said, adding he believes "cabinet unity" on the issue is important.

Referring to Bennett's vote against postponing the evacuation and his criticism of Lieberman, the defense minister said: "Until the end of Shabbat he [Bennett] had no idea of the eviction." Lieberman added that "He doesn't know where it is, he has no idea and he's never dealt with it. Sadly, all these hitchhikers are only getting in the way."

In response to Lieberman's remarks, Bennett said he remembers the area of Khan al-Ahmar well from night navigations in the Sayeret [The General Staff Reconnaissance Unit], "In the days when Israel had a right-wing defense minister who was true to his word."

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill that would block Hamas prisoners from receiving visits from Red Cross representatives or family members.

The terror group refuses to allow reciprocal visits by humanitarian organizations to the Israelis being held in Gaza.