Lieberman: Israel Holds Secret, Indirect Talks With Hamas

Speaking in Be'er Sheva Saturday, Lieberman says Israel has been 'buying quiet' with messages via Egypt to the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman speaking at a press conference.
Olivier Fitoussi

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said Saturday that Israel is conducting indirect negotiations with Hamas via Egyptian mediation. The former foreign minister, whose right-wing party is now in opposition, accused the government of irresponsibly buying peace with Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip. 

"Israel is carrying out negotiations with Hamas via Egypt and the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov," Lieberman told a Be'er Sheva audience. "Dozens of messages have been transmitted from Israel to Hamas to buy quiet and so the problem is shifted to the watch of whoever comes next," a reference to the next Israeli government.

"Hamas wants a port in Gaza so it will have a border crossing that is not controlled and so it can freely bring in missiles, rockets and weaponry and create a reality here like Hezbollah has in south Lebanon," he added.

Taking the current government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to task, Lieberman said: "This government is conducting a defeatist and lax policy. This is a leadership that is not constituted or capable mentally, psychologically or personally to deal with the challenges on the agenda. This is a government that doesn't know how to make a decision and is afraid to fight terrorism. We need to defeat terrorism and not [just] contain it."

Lieberman also commented on allegations broadcast on Channel 2 Thursday of sexual and other misconduct by the late general and cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi, who was killed by a terrorist in 2001. "A journalistic report on things from 50 years ago and regarding a man who was assassinated 15 years ago by a terrorist and cannot respond is not an investigative report. It's libel plain and simple," Lieberman said. The Yisrael Beiteinu leader acknowledged, however, that he had not seen the report, which appeared on the "Uvda" program, and said he does not intend to see it.

Lieberman also made reference to another installment of "Uvda," hosted by Ilana Dayan, which was highly critical of Breaking the Silence, an organization of former army veterans who have exposed allegations of wrongdoing and misconduct in the military. Lieberman said Thursday's program on Ze'evi, who was controversial during his lifetime and was identified with the right wing, "was an attempt to return to the bosom of the liberal left after Ilana Dayan broadcast the investigation against Breaking the Silence, after which the left attacked her." And Lieberman added: "There is no connection here to journalism. There is ill will."

In other comments, Lieberman wryly said Zehava Galon, the chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, "represents the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli Knesset. Maybe Galon should try to get elected to the Palestinian parliament."