Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman has vowed that the next Gaza will be the last, in an interview with Al-Quds newspaper.
The interview itself has been the subject of criticism, with some Palestinians saying the newspaper should not have granted Lieberman a platform for his views.
Lieberman claimed that “we do not have any intentions to start a war with our neighbours in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Lebanon and Syria.” But, he added, “the intentions in the Gaza Strip, is, like the Iranians, to eliminate the state of Israel.”
He continued: “even if we do not have the intention to initiative a new conflict with them [in the Gaza Strip], if they engage in a new war on Israel, it will be the final war for them. I want to reiterate that it will be the final war for them because we will completely destroy them.”
The wide-ranging interview covered a variety of topics, including Lieberman’s vision for a permanent deal with the Palestinians.
Lieberman affirmed that he has “adopted the two-state solution and I personally support this solution”, but that “the problem lies in the…Palestinian leadership.” He added: “I do not believe in smart occupation and I believe that it is better for the two peoples to be separated.”
Elaborating on what he means by a two-state solution, Lieberman said he “believe[s] that the right principle is not land for peace; I prefer the exchange of land and inhabitants.” Specifically, Lieberman declared that major illegal settlements such as “Ma’ale Adumim, Giv’at Ze’ev, Gush Etzion, and Ariel” will be “part of Israel” in “any sort of solution.”
Meanwhile, if Lieberman has his way, Palestinian citizens of Israel in areas like Umm el-Fahm will find themselves inside a future Palestinian state; these “people define themselves as Palestinians” so “let them be Palestinian”, he said. “There will be two national homes”, Lieberman affirmed, “one Jewish and one Palestinian, and not a Palestinian state and a binational state.”
In light of the fact that “it is difficult to convince the Palestinians and Israelis to agree to a final status agreement”, Lieberman believes that “the first step to convincing the people that this is possible can be summed up as serious improvement of the economic situation and combatting unemployment, poverty, and frustration within the Palestinians.”
For Israelis, meanwhile, “we must provide security, without terrorism and bloodshed for a specific period of time.” For Lieberman, only after “three years of serious economic progress for the Palestinians and three years without terrorism and Israeli victims” will it “be possible to build trust.”
Lieberman, himself a West Bank settler, told the paper: “I have many Palestinian neighbours and I talk to ordinary people, such as farmers, and not with the political leadership.”
Over the past four months, I met with a number of Palestinians, especially businessmen, and they were enjoyable meetings. I would ask them about the biggest hindrance to developing their economy, and they openly told me that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and those around him are the biggest hindrance to their economy.
Lieberman told Al-Quds that there is a need “to start from zero””, and thus “we must first build confidence between both sides, not between the leaders, but between the people.” He added: “The problem is that there is no confidence between the two people, and a relationship between the leaders alone is not enough. We need more security and the Palestinians need more luxury.”
Addressing the Gaza Strip, Lieberman said Israel is “willing to approve Turkey’s projects for electivity, water, desalination, and distillation.” The “problem”, according to the defense minister, “is that Hamas has received hundreds of millions of dollars since they came to power, and instead of investing them in an energy plant and infrastructure for water, they invested it in weapons.”
Asked if he is willing to talk to Hamas, Lieberman replied: “I cannot talk to someone who makes a statement everyday saying we hate you, we want to destroy you, we will wipe Israel off the map, we will throw you into the sea, etc.”
He added that “before Hamas took control, Gaza was open”, and that “there was a safe crossing between Gaza and Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].” Lieberman continued: “When we see that they stop the tunnels and rockets, we are willing to open the industrial areas in Erez and Karni. We are also willing to invest in the marina and airport.”
Addressing regional developments, Lieberman declared “we do not have any requests or demands from our neighbours. We gave Sinai to Egypt, we have a peace treaty with Jordan, and we have diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and we do not have any demands.”
He added: “The Arab Spring or Arab Winter has completely changed the situation in the Arab world, and we did not have anything to do with this. 99 per cent of all the victims and bloodshed is occurring amongst the Muslims themselves, and not with the Israelis.”