Bennett, Liberman Slam Each Other on Gaza Situation

YERUSHALAYIM -
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the Knesset plenum. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An ongoing war of words between Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett took a harsher tone Sunday, as Bennett accused the Defense Minister of “surrendering” to Hamas in Israel’s third-party negotiations with Hamas, while Liberman accused the Education Minister of “messianism and populism,” and of picking on him. “Why isn’t he attacking the Prime Minister in the same way,” Liberman asked in an interview on Reshet Bet.

Earlier, Bennett told Yediot Acharonot that Liberman’s “policies of surrender will lead to war. His hesitation to act and his weird grasp on the situation, in which he is counting on Gaza residents to overthrow Hamas in order to restore security to southern Israel, are irresponsible nonsense. The same Liberman who promised before the election that he would depose Hamas and string up its leader Ismail Haniyeh is now offering them rewards that will cost Israel in security.”

Liberman’s “’pragmatic’ policies are what has enabled Hamas to burn the south for 140 days straight, and to dictate to residents of the area when they have to enter their bomb shelters, and when they are allowed to emerge,” said Bennett. “Those who submit to terror are the cause of terror, and Liberman has submitted. His policies will bring about an inevitable war that Hamas will dictate the terms of, when it feels it is ready.”

In his own interview on Reshet Bet, Liberman said that there were good reasons for his relatively non-aggressive policy. “We do not wish to heat up the situation, although there are some who are pushing for this. Decisions such as the opening or closing of Gaza crossings, for example, are made in an orderly manner and after much deliberation. A Defense Minister does not pull decisions out of the top of his hat. We hold a meeting of all the top defense personnel and then make a decision. In the case of the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing last week, there was a consensus among top security figures to allow it to open,” Liberman said.

Among those who speak out in cabinet meetings are Bennett, said Liberman, whom he called “believes in messianism and speaks out of populist motivations, not security motivations. I have heard what he has to say, but he speaks from the lowest point of politics. We need to try everything before we send soldiers out to battle, and that is how we operate.”