Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday ‎dismissed criticism leveled at him over Israel’s ‎attempts to negotiate a longterm cease-fire 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, rather as a ‎result of driving a wedge between the Palestinian in ‎Gaza and the terrorist group ruling them.‎

He further dismissed the criticism leveled 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 ‎Wednesday on the progress in the Egyptian efforts to ‎broker a cease-fire 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.”