Israel’s Defense Chief Now Needs Approval if He Wants to Cut Fuel Transfers to Gaza

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman surprised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and security-cabinet members this month when he halted fuel and gas supplies to the Strip

Lieberman visiting the Israel Amry's Gaza division, October, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkowitz

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will now need the consent of the security cabinet if he wants to stop the delivery of fuel and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, defense officials said Tuesday following criticism of Lieberman’s actions.

Earlier this month, security-cabinet members were surprised by Lieberman’s decision to halt supplies of diesel fuel and gas to the Strip, contrary to the stance of the wider defense establishment. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the inner cabinet learned of Lieberman’s decision in the media.

>>Gaza escalation: Netanyahu and Lieberman are talking Israel into a corner | Analysis 

On Sunday, supply was renewed following “Hamas’ efforts to contain violent incidents at the end of last week,” Lieberman said.

Political and defense officials believe that Lieberman’s position – that fuel and aid be conditioned on a complete cessation of airborne-firebomb attacks and violent protests – is too high a bar. According to defense officials, halting the fuel supply could quickly worsen the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and Netanyahu and the rest of the security cabinet agree.

The Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza, October, 2018.
Tsafrir Abayov/AP Photo

According to officials involved in the discussions, Lieberman was the only one who believed that economic pressure and a blow to humanitarian aid could get Hamas to compromise.

The army says there are indications that Hamas is trying to bring quiet to the south. On Friday, Israeli intelligence noted that Hamas operatives had deployed along the fence and sought to keep protesters away.

Moreover, defense officials have said in closed meetings that Hamas was not responsible for the rockets fired at Be’er Sheva and south of Tel Aviv last week. They also believe the launch stemmed from an electrical short following a lightning strike.

In various meetings, the army has presented data about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including a report by the Rand Corp. warning of a deterioration that would hurt both Israel and Gaza and ratchet up tensions.

A demonstration on the Gaza border fence, October 19, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkowitz