Israeli Defense Chief Lieberman's Gaza Policy Creating More Terror, Bennett Charges

Bennett, who is a member of Israel's security cabinet, attacks defense minister's 'restraint' amid concerns of further violent escalation between Hamas and Israel

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A Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Sept.28, 2018.
A Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Sept.28, 2018. Credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of Israel's security cabinet, blasted Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's approach toward Hamas on Saturday, claiming that his policy is leading to more terrorism aimed at Israel.

"Lieberman's agreements with Hamas have collapsed," Bennett said. "Terror is continuing at the expense of the security of our citizens, due to Lieberman's policy of restraint and his weakness regarding the Gaza Strip. More restraint equals more terror," he continued.

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Bennett also said that he intended to raise his concerns at the upcoming security cabinet meeting. "Flaming kites and balloons continue to threaten residents of Gaza-border communities; riots at the border are escalating and Palestinians infiltrate Israel Defense Forces posts fearlessly," Bennett continued. "That's not how you manage a security policy, that's what a failed security policy looks like."

Bennett added: "Under the guise of 'pragmatism' and 'responsibility,' Lieberman has left the security of citizens of Israel's south in Hamas' hands."

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The education minister's attack came amid a mounting concern in Israel that tensions on the border might quickly escalate in the near future and become a full-blown confrontation.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett (L) attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on September 12, 2018. Credit: AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel was prepared for any scenario following the border escalation, adding that "this is not an empty statement."

Defense officials believe that events in recent weeks have made a full-scale conflict in Gaza significantly more likely. The defense establishment’s view isn’t new. But recent moves by Hamas have strengthened its assessment that the Gaza organization seeks a conflict with Israel, even if only a limited one.

Hamas recently resumed demonstrations along the Gaza border and set up special units to harass Israeli soldiers at night, in the early morning and during periods of fog. These come on top of existing units for tactics such as incendiary balloons, tire burning and naval operations. Seven Palestinians, including a 12-year-old, were killed by IDF fire during Friday's border protests, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

Hamas aims to foment clashes with the IDF throughout the week, rather than only on Friday afternoons, as used to be the case. Moreover, Hamas has begun making operative preparations for war; for example, it has held a home front defense exercise and significantly stepped up the pace of its combat drills.

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