Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said in an interview that any future hostilities between the Jewish state and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip will be the last, “because we will completely destroy them.”
Mr Lieberman made the comments in a rare ‘hearts and minds’ interview with Jerusalem based Palestinian newspaper al-Quds, published on Monday, in which he insisted that all Palestinians have a duty to deter the Hamas movement from its goal of destroying the Israeli state.
“As minister of defence, I would like to clarify that we have no intention of starting a new war against our neighbours in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, Lebanon or Syria,” he said, while adding that ordinary Palestinians in both the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza Strip must urge the Islamist movement to “stop your crazy policies.”
“In Gaza, like the Iranians, they intend to eliminate the state of Israel… If they impose the next war on Israel, it will be their last. I would like to emphasise again: it will be their last confrontation because we will completely destroy them,“ he said.
The comments have sparked outrage on Palestinian social media platforms, particularly among those supportive of Hamas, with critics sending messages blasting the ‘media normalisation’ of Israeli policy in the decision to interview Mr Lieberman, whom they dubbed a “murderer.”
“The conflict with the enemy isn’t only about power, it is also ideological and cultural… therefore, any type of normalisation with Israel must be forbidden,” one such commenter said.
Mr Lieberman, who took office in May, made a series of threats directed at Ismail Haniya, Hamas’ Gaza leader, before taking up the post. He has since backed away from the statements and has said he is committed to “responsible, reasonably policy.”
He serves under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what is seen as the most right-wing administration in Israeli history: many government members are publicly opposed to recognising the state of Palestine.
Mr Lieberman himself says he believes in a two-state solution, and is critical of Israeli settlements in the West Bank – one of the major stumbling blocks to any peace deal.
In the interview with al-Quds Mr Lieberman was critical of the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom he said has not done enough to curb more violent factions of the movement for Palestinian statehood.