Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman sent a letter Thursday to his colleagues enlisting their support for the current military operation to reign in rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilians.
The text of Libeman’s letter is featured below.
As you are probably aware, Israel this week began a military operation in Gaza, in response to ongoing Hamas rocket fire. The latest round of rocket fire began June 12th, the day that three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered. The Hamas shooting escalated significantly June 30th, even before the bodies of the teens were found and before the murder of a Palestinian youth, which was condemned sharply by the entire Israeli leadership, and whose murderers are already held in custody.
Over the past three weeks, the Hamas terror organization has escalated its attack on Israeli civilians, launching nearly 300 rockets at our cities – including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other major metropolitan areas — putting millions of Israeli lives at risk. Families have been forced into shelters, summer camps for children closed, and all normal daily activities have been impacted. This is unacceptable.
Israel had shown great restraint prior to this operation. Our intention was to restore the calm without a major military operation. However, Israel’s repeated efforts to achieve calm were met with increased rocket fire by what is becoming a Hamas terrorist state. Therefore, Israel launched an operation of self-defense, “Protective Edge,” on July 7th, to counter these attacks, to defend our citizens, and secure for them a life without constant threat. Although we are not interested in escalation, we will do whatever is necessary to defend our citizens.
Hamas is a recognized terror organization, motivated by the most radical ideology, including a charter that calls for the murder of all Jews. Hamas is responsible for 80 suicide bombers that have killed nearly 1000 Israeli civilians. Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and Egypt. This group seeks to establish an Islamist state characterized by human rights violations, violent repression of minorities, women, and non-Muslims.
By deploying weapons and command centers in densely populated areas and operating from residential areas, thus turning Palestinian civilians into human shields, while deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, Hamas has been committing war crimes for over a decade. Hamas terrorists launch rockets indiscriminately at civilians from civilian areas, and hide in civilian infrastructures including mosques, schools and hospitals. Hamas, therefore, bears full responsibility for any harm that comes to Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike.
Israel is operating with utmost care to avoid civilian casualties. We are focusing on targeting Hamas and other terrorist organizations, their operatives and infrastructure. Israel is giving repeated warnings to civilians to vacate areas they are about to target, using pinpoint technologies to hit only the targeted infrastructure.
May I remind you that Israel left the Gaza Strip completely in the August 2005 Disengagement. Since then, there has been no Israeli presence, civilian or military, in the Gaza Strip.
It is clear that the Palestinian government must dissolve immediately its partnership with Hamas. Furthermore, it is important that world leaders
condemn the ongoing rocket fire by Hamas and other terror groups towards Israeli population centers, and take action to dismantle the Hamas terrorist infrastructure. Finally, the international community should continue to demonstrate understanding for Israel to exercise its legitimate right to self-defense.
I. Palestinian duplicity did not begin the day that Yasser Arafat immigrated to Gaza City from Tunis in 1994, but the Chairman’s arrival on the scene in Israel set into motion a trend that Israel has proved unable to reverse over the ensuing two decades.
The original Oslo accord called for the nascent Palestinian Authority to create a “lightly armed” police force, in order to maintain public order but lacking the ability to pose a threat to Israelis or to Israeli police. The sides agreed that the PA police could hold 13,000 light weapons.
But that number had been exceed nearly four-fold by the time Rabin was assassinated just 16 months after Arafat’s celebrated arrival in Gaza. International observers at the time said weapons far in excess of the “light weapons” agreed upon had been smuggled into the PA.
The first time PA “police” opened fire with their brand-new, American-supplied weapons was several weeks after Arafat’s arrival. Arafat and other Palestinian spokespeople made clear that whatever peaceful process there was would be temporary.
And yet, Israel was undeterred. Senior officials such as then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres and then-Justice Minister Yossi Beilin prosecuted the Oslo process with full diligence, ignoring bus bombings and other clear signs along the way that the Palestinians were using the process to create the conditions for war, not peace. Palestinian terror was eventually met with Israeli withdrawals, and thousands of Israelis and Palestinians were maimed or killed when the storm finally hit, on September 29, 2000.
This history is relevant as Israel moves to prosecute yet another round of fighting with Hamas in Gaza. During the years Israel governed the Gaza Strip, local residents and terror operatives felt free to dig tunnels under the Egyptian border, and to smuggle weapons into the Strip from Egypt. Here, too, the process continued unabated, and the results of that police are clear. Once again, Israelis will pay the price of that police from their bomb shelters and protected rooms as the air force tries to convince Hamas to “play nice” by holding their fire.
II. Upon leaving the south Lebanon security zone in May, 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that any attack against the international border would be treated as an act of war. At the same time, Foreign Minister David Levy warned Hezbollah not to “play with fire” by attacking Israeli civilians or troops.
But when Hezbollah responded to the Israeli pullout by kidnapping three IDF soldiers, Adi Avitan, Omer Soued and Binyamin Avraham less than six months later, Israel’s response was… non-existent.
Similarly, when Ariel Sharon evicted 1,600 Jewish families from their homes in Gush Katif five years later, he warned that the first rocket from the Judenrein Strip would be met with the “fires of hell.”
But again, it turned out that the fires of Sharon’s hell weren’t all that hot: On August 25, 2005 – less than two weeks after Sharon’s troops “disengaged” from Gaza, Arab “freedom fighters fired two Qassam rockets at Sderot. Two weeks later, on September 12, several hours after the last IDF troops left the Strip, Palestinians celebrated by burning down the synagogues in former Jewish communities and firing rockets at Sderot and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.
Like his predecessor, however, Sharon granted a free pass to Palestinians, sending a clear message that the “fires of hell” had actually turned into something closer to a grudging acceptance of the reality of rocket fire on the Israeli home front.
In both cases, the terror groups involved understood that despite exhortations to the contrary, Israel would, indeed, resolve itself to living with the attacks on its civilian population. As the saying goes: There is no second chance to make a first impression.
III. If Israel has not managed to eliminate Hamas in previous rounds of fighting, which were no less painful for Israeli and Palestinian civilians, there is no reason to expect the political establishment to give the IDF a green light to do so now. Were the political will there, the army could complete a Hamasectomy in Gaza in short order. The unhappy truth, however, is that Israel is in a painful dance with Hamas: Of course, the current situation is untenable, but it is worth remembering that Hamas is far from the worst enemy Israel could find on the Gaza doorstep.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman dissolved the partnership of his Yisrael Beytenu party with the Prime Minister’s leading Likud party.
Liberman made the formal announcement Monday at noon, telling reporters at a news conference the impetus for the move was a disagreement over how the escalation of attacks from Gaza were being handled.
“The truth is, the [Likud Beytenu] merger never really worked well,” he said, “not before the elections, not during the elections, and not after the elections either.”
However, he made it clear he did not intend to leave the government coalition.
There have been sharp differences between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu in how the Gaza situation should be handled, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Liberman have traded fierce words over the issue.
“The central objective of the government is to stop the firing on the communities in the south but the argument over the way to do this should not leak out of the Cabinet,” Netanyahu said Sunday during the cabinet meeting.
Apparently Liberman decided it was preferable to free himself to say and do what he pleases as an independent entity rather than be forced to cooperate with a policy he detests as part of a merged party with the Likud.
He has demanded a ‘harsh operation’ in Gaza and a similar response to end the Arab violence throughout Israel, citing his call for a need to silence the terrorist guns as his reason for ending his merger with the Likud.
In that he is joined by Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party chairman Naftali Bennett, who has also been calling for a wide-scale operation in Gaza to silence the increasing rocket and mortar fire.
Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Thursday that any escalation would be met with a fierce response the IDF has been forced to restrict itself to measured air strikes that target specific terrorist targets.
Sunday night and Monday morning nine terrorists were killed in Gaza, including seven in a smugglers tunnel along the region’s border with Egypt. It was unclear whether those seven were killed by the air strike, or whether they died due to a ‘work accident’ in which a bomb they were working on exploded prematurely.
IAF fighter pilots also killed two terrorists who were in the process of launching another rocket attack against southern Israel. They attacked a total of 14 targets in two waves of air strikes overnight.
Nevertheless, Hamas and other terror groups have continue to fire rockets, mortar shells and missiles at Israel and have slowly increased the range and number of projectiles they launch.
On Monday Gaza terrorists fired an anti-tank missile across the border at IDF soldiers patrolling along the security fence as well.
Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman has decided to end his merger with the Likud party. Liberman told media he will announce the decision formally at a news conference Monday afternoon. The decision comes against the backdrop of a fierce disagreement over how to deal with the escalating rocket, mortar and missile attacks from Gaza.
The party is leaving a merger of the two parties — the ‘Likud Beytenu’ party — that was formed in order to win the last election, when both parties were convinced that neither had enough support to otherwise gain a majority in the Knesset. The split leaves Likud with 20 seats in the Knesset, and Yisrael Beytenu with 11 mandates.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, chairman of the Likud party, held open the foreign minister’s position for him for months as he faced trial on charges of corruption, refusing to replace Liberman until a verdict was reached.
Liberman’s move leaves each party with the ability to form new alliances, and could present the Likud with a chance to strengthen the government.
However, the situation also might fracture the coalition at a time when the country most needs the government to present a unified stance in the face of Arab hostilities from without and within.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is set to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday in Paris.
On the agenda, once again, will be the issue of the dead-on-arrival talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Sources close to both sides said Wednesday that relations with Iran are likely to be on the agenda as well, in addition to the matter of the crisis in Iraq.
In addition to the Iran’s continued drive to develop nuclear weapons capabilities, Russia has recently signed a deal to build eight new nuclear power plants in the Islamic Republic.
Iran has refused to slow down on the program, let alone cease its drive to develop nuclear technology, despite sanctions, talks and any other efforts by the international community to persuade Tehran to do so.
However, there is one issue that has begun to concern Iran a great deal – a fear it shares with its neighbors in the region, as well as the United States.
Iran is strengthening its defenses along its border with Iraq against the possibility it may have to fend off an advance from the guerrilla fighters of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) terrorist organization.
The group, also known as the Islamic State of al-Shams or Syria (ISIS), has been making its way across Iraq and has seized a wide swathe of territory in both Iraq and Syria over the past months.
For the first time ISIS also captured a border crossing between Iraq and Jordan, in addition to two crossings into Syria.
The group also took control of four additional towns, continuing its advance into western Iraq and closer to the border with Jordan.
I believe the Palestinian Authority unity government has launched a third intifada.
Perhaps a quiet one, perhaps not. But it is undeniably clear there has been a sharp escalation in Arab attacks on Jews throughout the country since the start of 2014.
Since the beginning of 2014, more than 200 rockets were aimed at Israel from the Gaza region – twice the number fired in 2013.
And once Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas signed his merger with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal –- silent partners with the Iranian proxy Islamic Jihad – the number of attacks jumped even higher.
For starters, here’s what the week looks like so far:
On Sunday night Arabs felt comfortable enough to open fire in a drive-by attack on an IDF checkpoint at the entrance to Jerusalem leading to Highway 60, the main road that runs through the Gush Etzion tunnel and through Judea to the south of Israel’s capital. Five bullet casings from a pistol were found. Miraculously, no one was injured.
On Monday evening, here’s what happened:
- An Egged bus driver on Bus #51 was injured when his bus came under attack by Arab rock throwers on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The hail of rocks smashed the glass on the bus, sending the broken shards flying into the driver’s face and body.
- A missile launched from Gaza made it through Israeli defenses and exploded on the outskirts of Ashkelon. No injuries reported.
- Arab terrorists attacked a car traveling on the main road near Azun; one of the rocks they hurled at the vehicle broke the back window and wounded a baby in the back seat. The mother, who drove, managed to reach help in the Jewish town of Karnei Shomron.
- Arabs attacked the Beit Orot Yeshiva in Jerusalem, also Monday night, and succeeded in hitting the guardhouse of the yeshiva. They did not succeed in injuring anyone.
- Two Arab terrorists attempted to infiltrate the Samaria Jewish town of Kochav Yaakov in the Binyamin region on Monday night as well. They were spotted by IDF soldiers trying to cut through the town’s security fence. The soldiers opened fire at the terrorists, injuring one of them. The injured terrorist was subsequently taken to a Ramallah hospital — but the second terrorist managed to escape. This is the second attempt by terrorists to infiltrate the town in less than 72 hours.
In the past 14 days, at least a dozen missiles were fired at Israel. Seven reached Israeli territory, including a number fired at Ashkelon. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system – but the falling shrapnel caused damage to the property hit by the debris.
Last Wednesday, a European Union delegation visited Gaza to express support for the new Hamas-backed legislators joining the PA unity government. Barely 24 hours later, emboldened Hamas terrorists in Judea crossed into Israeli territory to kidnap two 16 year old yeshiva boys who learn at the renowned Mekor Chaim Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, and their 19 year old fellow student. They were grabbed while standing on the road in Gush Etzion, heading home for the Sabbath. One of the boys had the presence of mind to dial police and managed to get the words out, “We’re being kidnapped by terrorists,” before his cell phone was cut off.
That was last Thursday night.
An IDF spokesperson announced the IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm the citizens of Israel and will operate decisively against any act of terrorism. Strong words – but police took hours to respond to the yeshiva boys’ desperate phone call for help. Reportedly they were too busy interrogating other teens at a community where there was a report of a ‘price tag’ attack on Arabs in days past.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed those who blame the victims – in this case, three teens abducted on Thursday by Hamas terrorists: Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16. “My heart is with the abducted children,” Liberman stated on Monday. “There is nothing more infuriating than blaming these youths or their families by saying that the abductions happened because they chose to study in Gush Etzion (an area in Judea) or because they dared to hitchhike in a place where there is limited public transportation.”
Acts of terror are not limited to Judea and Samaria, Liberman stated.
“According to this logic it would be possible to say that those who came to the Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya, or the people who sat at Cafe Sbarro in Jerusalem [which was blown up during the Second Intifada], or the American victims who worked in the Twin Towers are responsible for their own deaths,” he said.
Coverage of Kidnapping Includes ‘Problematic’ Reporting
Indeed, as pointed out by Honest Reporting, a site that monitors media bias against Israel, coverage of the kidnapping has included the “worst…problematic reporting.”
Several media sites are using the word “settlers” to describe the captive youths, rather than something neutral, such as “teenagers” or “students.”
“Far better to portray Yifrach, Shaar and Frankel as ‘settlers’ and political actors rather than Israeli kids trying to get home from class,” Honest Reporting notes, citing more examples of biased reporting on the situation. “This emphasis excuses the actions of Palestinian terrorists and attempts to ‘understand’ why they should wish to carry out a kidnapping, which now becomes the fault of the victims rather than the terrorists.”
Terrorism does not distinguish between New York and Gush Etzion
“Terrorism is terrorism and it does not distinguish between New York, Netanya, or Gush Etzion,” Liberman asserted.
“Drawing conclusions about how the teens acted, or how the police or security forces responded should be delayed until after this kidnapping event is resolved,” he added.