Israel's Defense Minister: We're Willing to Pay Any Price Over Trump's Jerusalem Declaration

Visiting a military base near the Gaza border, Avigdor Lieberman says Israel won't accept a constant trickle of rocket fire from Gaza

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman during a tour of the Re’im Base near the Gaza border, December 19, 2017.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel knew it would pay a price for U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and “we are willing to pay any price” for it. Lieberman made his comments on Tuesday morning at the Israeli army’s Re’im Base near the border with the Gaza Strip. “It seems this is a price worth paying,” he said, calling Trump’s announcement important.

Lieberman praised the “optimism and spirit” of the Israelis living near the Gaza border. “We will not accept any trickle," he said of the nearly constant rocket fire from Gaza into the these communities since Trump’s declaration. “We know what to do, how to do it and especially when to do it.” The flow of rockets has stopped for now, he said, adding that the last day was characterized by calm.

Referring to Hamas' arrests of Salafi militants in Gaza to curb the rocket fire into Israel, Lieberman said: “Israel is prepared and ready as it has never been before, and from what we have seen in the past two days, Hamas has internalized and understands this, too.”

Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Hamas security forces have arrested and tortured many members of Salafi militant groups, apparently with the aim of halting their groups’ rocket fire into Israel. After such arrests and interrogations, no one will go back to opposing Hamas, said Lieberman.

Since Trump’s announcement on December 6, almost 30 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory in the Negev. Half of them landed inside the enclave itself, but in two cases, on Sunday and last week, rockets fell inside Israeli communities: one south of Ashkelon and the other in Sderot. There were no injuries, but the rockets did cause property damage.

“What is important now is to strengthen the issue of Jerusalem,” said Lieberman. “This determination by the United States, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, puts an end to the bitter disagreement that has been conducted for years.

“We have said Jerusalem the capital of Israel is not negotiable and not for bargaining. [Trump]’s decision is definitely a historic decision and we must now anchor it firmly, both inside [Israel] and outside.”

Concerning the High Court of Justice’s recent ruling that Israel must return the bodies of terrorists to their families for burial, Lieberman said no bodies of terrorists will be returned. “I think the ruling is an unprecedented scandal,” he said, calling it intolerable and a gross interference by the justices.