Israel Defense Minister: Jewish State Prefers to See Gazans Topple Hamas Regime
JNS.org – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed criticism leveled at him on Wednesday over Israel’s attempts to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Hamas.
“My strategy is to talk directly to the Palestinian public, not with Hamas leadership,” he told Israel Hayom. “The public in Gaza must understand that they have everything to gain from maintaining calm and everything to lose if they don’t. Our goal is to see the public in Gaza rise up and replace the [Hamas] regime. We have no interest in ruling Gaza.”
According to Lieberman, toppling the Hamas regime remains one of his main objectives, but it will not come as a result of eliminating Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh—as he once promised to do—but rather as a result of driving a wedge between the Palestinians in Gaza and the terrorist group that rules them.
He further dismissed the criticism aimed at him by Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, saying that resuming the operations at the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing was a reward for Hamas.
“I took office on June 1, 2016, and instead of one Haniyeh, there are 200 dead Hamas operatives and over 40 Hamas sites that we have destroyed. They [Hamas] don’t care about human life, but they lament every infrastructure we eliminate,” he said.
The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet was briefed on Wednesday about the progress in the Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
A senior Israeli official denied that an agreement with Hamas would exclude the issue of the Israeli captives, saying, “There can be no true agreement with Hamas without the return of our citizens and soldiers, and a guarantee of long-term calm on the border.”