Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman took a tough stance on the power shortage in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, saying that Israel was willing to supply electricity to the Strip, "but they must pay first."
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"We must make this clear, especially to the international community,” Lieberman told the Tel Aviv International Salon forum.
A few weeks ago, Abbas informed Israel that he would cut the amount of money he transfers to Israel to provide electricity in Gaza by 40 percent. Abbas made the decision as part of his attempt to put heavy pressure on Hamas. Israel responded that the supply would be cut according to the payments received. The reduction is expected to worsen the already difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza.
The reduction of the already intermittent electricity supply to the Gaza Strip was met with an outcry in the coastal enclave, with Hamas calling it "disastrous." Cutting power pushes the Strip even closer to explosion, Hamas said in its first response to the Israeli decision.
Lieberman accused Hamas of being responsible for the crisis. “What is going on in Gaza is an internal struggle between Hamas and Fatah, and between [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] and [Hamas leader] Yahya Sinwar," Lieberman said.
"Hamas is responsible for the crisis and Israel is not part of this struggle,” he added.
Referring to a proposition offshore island port for Gaza, an initiative floated by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Lieberman charged that this would be akin to giving a prize for terrorism and would only serve to encourage more terrorism.
“Hamas will say that thanks to its struggle it has received investments worth billions and a new port in Gaza,” he said.
On Monday, Haaretz reported that a cabinet meeting on Katz's plan ended without a decision despite receiving the support of a majority of ministers, due to Lieberman's objection.
On Thursday, Lieberman explained that he believes such a port would be controlled by Hamas and would be another way to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
“It is impossible to preserve our security by remote control, and for someone else to be responsible for our security,” said Lieberman, “We have bitter experience from the past with such things, including with international forces that came to supervise, and then everything collapsed at the moment of truth." "It is impossible to guarantee security in Gaza with international observers,” he added.