Ya'alon Touts Israeli Victory in Gaza; Lieberman's Not So Sure

Defense minister states that Hamas truce conditions are beneficial to Israel; foreign minister says he is 'bothered' that terror group endured in battle against 'strongest army in Mideast.'

Emil Salman

Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Friday that Israel's operation in Gaza ended with military and diplomatic victory for Israel, while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sounded more skeptical about the campaign's success.

In an interview on Channel 2, Ya'alon said that "in military terms, the victory is clear. In every confrontation that the Israel Defense Forces was in, it defeated the other side." He added that Israel destroyed Hamas' attack tunnel network, hit a number of rocket launch sites, weapons caches and headquarters, as well as carrying out targeted assassinations.

Lieberman, meanwhile, said in an interview with Channel 1 that it wasn't enough that Hamas has been impaired. Asked whether Israel won the conflict, Lieberman said: "The fact that this question is being asked is not a good sign. When the outcome is clear, it isn't usually asked.

"The fact that a 20,000-strong terror group has endured for 50 days against the strongest army in the Middle East and has stayed in power – it bothers me very much."

The cease-fire between Hamas and Israel continued to hold Friday, three days after it went into effect and ended 50 days of fighting between the two sides that cost the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians and 72 Israelis.

Ya'alon asserted that the conditions of the cease-fire with Hamas are beneficial to Israel. "Also in diplomatic terms, Hamas went where we wanted, where they didn't want to go, with no conditions: the Egyptian initiative. Hamas actually got a cease-fire as we wanted it, without all the issues that (Hamas) tried to raise – a seaport, an airport, and prisoners. There is no chance that Hamas will get a sea port – this is not in Israel's interest, this is not in Egypt's interest, this is not even in the interest of the Palestinian Authority."

Lieberman, however, expressed doubt over the truce, suggesting that the Israeli military operation should have continued.

"I don't understand why they are giving them time to recover," he said. "Common sense says that if you're already in a war and your opponent has been defeated and weakened, you should finish the job. Hamas' leaders should have been assassinated or expelled.

"It was possible," he said, citing top military officials. "We were closer to it than ever."

Defense Minister Ya'alon also discussed tensions in the cabinet during Operation Protective Edge. "I am not proud of the conduct of the cabinet, and I hope the ministers that for the first time are experiencing the responsibility of the cabinet will learn lessons from this. I don't remember a cabinet like this, and I have been in cabinets for 20 years," he said. Some of the ministers said one thing in security cabinet meetings, and something else to the press, he added.

"You sit in a room, and things come up and people express themselves, and in the end outside they do politics." He described this as "really inappropriate," and reiterated that he hopes the newer members of the cabinet learn their lesson.

When asked whether Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, who Israel tried to assassinate, was alive or dead, he answered, "Time will tell, things will reveal themselves, let's wait and see."

He also commented on Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal's comments on Thursday in Qatar, in which he vowed the Gaza group would fight Israel again if upcoming truce talks come to naught. "Every Hamas leader, political or not, is at the head of a network of terrorists." He added that anyone who uses terror against Israel is a legitimate target.