Israel wishes to create a direct relationship between the security situation that Israel faces in Gaza and the economy in the Strip, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday. Speaking while on a tour of the Golan Heights, he said the aim is to make "an absolute link between security and economic benefits," adding that economic stablity in Gaza also contributes to calm.
He again denied that Israel was engaged in negotiations with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza. "As far as I'm concerned, there is only one arrangement, and that's the reality on the ground," he said. "We are in fact talking to the Egyptians, the United Nations and the international community," the defense minister acknowledged, referring to an emerging longer-term arrangement between Israel and Hamas.
"If we want to reach some kind of general arrangement, then a specific condition is an arrangement regarding prisoners and missing persons," he said, referrring to the return of two Israeli civilians being held in Gaza and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were killed in Gaza in 2014. "We are operating unilaterally, in accordance with the reality on the ground, and apparently that will continue," he said.
Lieberman said that in looking ahead 12 years, "what we want to see in the end is security and calm, and therefore we must also understand that economic stability also ensures security and calm."
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There has been a dramatic drop in the number of security incidents in Gaza, Lieberman added.