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.”