On October 16th, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that a harsh Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) strike against Hamas is the only way to halt the continued Palestinian attacks against Israel.
“Now is the time for decisions. My position is very clear: We must deal a heavy blow against Hamas. This is the only way to return the situation to its previous state and to reduce the level of violence to nearly zero,” he said.
On the previous day, Lieberman said that a ceasefire in Gaza is only possible after the IDF deals a crushing military blow to Hamas. “In contrast to those who believe that an arrangement is possible with Hamas, I don’t believe there is any chance of this,” the defense minister commented. He made his calls both in the Knesset as well as at the Maariv Conference in Jerusalem.
Avigdor Lieberman is one of the most hawkish voices in the Israeli leadership regarding the issue of the weekly Palestinian protests along the Gaza fence.
Liberman acknowledged that a Gaza military operation must come after “a decision of the entire cabinet.”
“Everyone understands that the situation today cannot continue. We cannot accept violence week after week. The Defense Ministry has used kid gloves before the violence broke out [on March 30], including with international organizations. We have exhausted our options,” he said.
He explained his he became convinced of this after Hamas responded with violence to Israel’s humanitarian gesture on October 9th. To help alleviate the electricity crisis in Gaza, Israel facilitated the transfer into the Strip of a large shipment of Qatari-funded fuel for the Gaza power plant.
“The change came last Friday. We allowed tanks of diesel to enter Gaza and, in return, were facing the kind of violence that we have not seen in a long time. We also saw [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh saying: ‘Diesel and salaries are not going to stop the violence until the blockade is lifted.’”
He also said that opening Gaza’s borders without any inspection mechanism would allow Iran to strengthen its influence in the Strip and would allow for an increased entry of weapons.
“This means Iranian weapons and Hezbollah fighters to Gaza. When Hamas says this, we must accept it as it is, without exegesis. We have paid a heavy price for such interpretations in the past, including in the 1930s.”
“The only formula in my opinion is rebuilding in exchange for disarmament. At the moment, we need to make decisions, and I hope the cabinet will make decisions. The only way is a heavy blow that can, in my opinion, lead to five years of quiet,” Liberman said.
Israel cannot agree to Hamas’ demands for a ceasefire because they include the liftin of all Israeli restrictions on Gaza’s border. Israel has three demands for the blockade to end, they include the release of Israeli hostages from Gaza, a Hamas renunciation of its goal to destroy Israel and a pledge to demilitarize the Gaza Strip, according to Lieberman.
On October 14th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would launch a “different” kind of response if the attacks from the Gaza Strip against his country do not end.
The hawkish calls in Israel are further reinforced by the unrelenting support from the US in every sort of policy, be it military or economic.
On October 11th, this support was reinforced by a US warship visiting Israel for the first time in 19 years. “This is the first visit in some 19 years by an American destroyer at the Ashdod port,” Netanyahu said as he toured the ship with his wife, Sara. “There is significance to this visit; it symbolizes that deep alliance between Israel and the United States.”
Netanyahu further commented that the US Navy warship USS Ross’s port of call in Ashdod is a clear signal that Washington backs Israel’s military efforts to prevent Iranian intervention in Syria.
Hamas also responded to Israeli officials hawkish calls for an operation in Gaza. The movement said that Israel’s “empty threats” will not scare the Palestinians.
“The threats serve as an incentive for increased participation in the March of Return, its continuity and its development,” Hamas said in a statement.
An Egyptian delegation is due to visit Ramallah on October 18th in an effort to avert a military confrontation in the Gaza Strip and end the Hamas-Fatah rift.