Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned today citing the government’s “weak” response to the terrorist organization Hamas and the “excuses” it made in reaching a ceasefire after nearly 500 rockets were launched at Israel in one day.
“What happened yesterday with the ceasefire with Hamas was a surrender to terror. There is no other word for it,” Liberman said.
“What we are doing right now is buying quiet for a heavy price with no long-term plan to reduce violence,” he said. “To put it lightly, our response was drastically lacking to the 500 rockets fired at us.”
Liberman is head of the Yisrael Beytenu (Israel our Home) party. In announcing his resignation, he demanded elections for the national government be scheduled “as soon as possible.”
“It’s no secret there have been disagreements between the prime minister and myself in recent months,” he said at a press conference. Liberman opposed allowing Hamas officials in Gaza to receive fuel and $15 million from Qatar, which Israel approved. There is no way to verify that cash won’t be diverted to terror purposes, Liberman alleged.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to take on the defense minister’s job until further notice. His office said there is no need for elections at the moment, although other ministers in the coalition are already jockeying for the post. With Liberman’s resignation, Netanyahu’s coalition now holds a slim majority.
Netanyahu defended the ceasefire with Hamas, brokered by Egypt, earlier in the day.
“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said. “Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why.”
The deal drew criticism from within the government as well as from Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip and have been coping with episodes of both sporadic and intense rocket fire for more than a decade.
Liberman’s message will likely resonate in southern Israel after Tuesday’s rocket fire killed one person and injured several and damaged buildings and vehicles.
In the South, hundreds demonstrated after the ceasefire was announced Tuesday evening. Residents were expecting a stronger military response that would put an end to the situation. One woman told reporters Israelis in the South want to be able to sit at a cafe without being concerned with the proximity of a bomb shelter just like the residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem do.
Protestors blocked roads and burned tires chanting “Bibi go home,” using the nickname for Netanyahu.
“I’ve been a Likud man for 40 years but I promise I won’t vote Likud anymore. We’re captives of Hamas,” Yohanan Cohen said of the prime minister’s party.
Other politicians supported the protestors and lauded Liberman’s resignation including Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay who called the demonstrations a “justified” response to the government “forsaking” them.
“This is not the time for another fragile truce,” he said. “This is the time for a true diplomatic initiative in Gaza, that will lean on the recommendations of the security establishment.”
He said the government had failed the south by “neglecting” the issue of Gaza since the 2014 war, Operation Protective Edge. The conflict lasted two months and left hundreds of people dead, many of them Gaza residents. Since Israel evacuated all Jewish residents from the Gaza Strip in 2005, rocket fire and other acts of terrorism have become a regular occurrence.
“A month from today the same thing will happen…it doesn’t make sense that our lives are like this,” Sderot resident Reut Bassis told reporters.