There is no chance of a long-term arrangement with Hamas, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday. Speaking at a conference sponsored by Ma’ariv, Liberman said “we didn’t have an arrangement, and there is no chance for an arrangement. We in any case did not give up on the attempt” to negotiate a deal with Hamas, but after recent events at the Gaza border, including the increased violence among rioters and the ever-increasing number of balloon terror attacks, Liberman does not believe that negotiations with Hamas on a ceasefire will pick up again.
“In my opinion as defense minister, we must impose the hardest blow we are able to against Hamas, even if it means all-out war,” Liberman said. “We have to hit them and make them hurt. Not everyone in the Cabinet agrees with me – and unfortunately it is the Cabinet as a whole that makes the decision, not individual ministers. There are many ministers who talk big in public, but in the closed room of the Cabinet they sing a different tune.”
Several months ago, third-party sponsored talks were going on between Israel and Hamas about the possibility of a long-term ceasefire. Under the deal, Israel would relax its sanctions on Hamas and allow more goods into Gaza, as well as more freedom of movement for Gaza residents. In return, Hamas would halt its Gaza border riots, end its campaign of balloon and kite terror attacks, and enter into serious talks that would result in the return home of Israelis held by the terror group.
Those indirect talks were sponsored by Egypt and U.N. officials, and had been conducted in earnest until before Rosh Hashanah. They were halted for a week for a Muslim festival and have not restarted, mostly due to opposition to the impending deal by Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Since the talks Hamas has increased its aggression against Israel.
But Liberman was skeptical about the deal even when the talks were going on, he said Monday. “The approach that a deal can be made with Hamas is naïve. I said all along that we would end up in a battle in Gaza. From what we have seen in recent days, and despite our efforts” to maintain calm, “it is clear that Hamas has a strategy. I come to this point of view not because of the balloons or any specific incident. Hamas has made clear that they are in this until the end, and neither fuel, salaries nor humanitarian assistance will bring them to stop the violence against Israel.
“The only reason Hamas wants to end the naval blockade of Gaza is to enable Iran to ship them weapons,” Liberman said, adding that “at the end of the day we come to a point where we realize we have to make decisions. As soon as it becomes clear that the other side has no intention of calming down until it achieves its goals, we need not waste our time” on negotiations or arrangements.