Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman quits over Gaza truce

Avigdor Lieberman announces resignation in protest against Gaza ceasefire with Hamas, making early elections likely.

    Lieberman delivered a statement after his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, faction meeting at the Knesset [Ammar Awad/Reuters]
    Lieberman delivered a statement after his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, faction meeting at the Knesset [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

    Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has announced he is resigning from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in protest against a truce in Gaza.

    Addressing reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Lieberman said he deemed Tuesday's Egyptian-mediated ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza "a capitulation to terror".

    "Despite the difference in opinion, I tried to stay a faithful member of the government for as long as possible … but it has failed," Lieberman said.

    He said he also fiercely objected to Israel's allowing Qatar to deliver $15m in aid to Gaza last week. 

    "From my point of view there are two critical points that made it impossible for me to carry on; the $15m that went into the Gaza Strip taken in suitcases from Qatar ... what would happen with the money after it has gone across the border," the minister said.

    "It went to the families of the terrorists who fought on the border with Israeli soldiers throwing grenades. These families are the first who are going to receive part of this $15m - in other words we are ... giving terrorists money," Lieberman added.

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    "The second point is regarding the ceasefire ... I understand all of the reasons and all of the information [behind the decision], but I would not be able to look in the eyes of the people who are within the range of Hamas, who are taken prisoner by Hamas. Hamas has to understand that nobody should go close to the frontier."

    'Political victory'

    In a reaction on Wednesday, Hamas called Lieberman's resignation a "political victory for Gaza".

    Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said it marked "recognition of defeat and failure to confront the Palestinian resistance", adding that "Gaza's steadfastness sent a political shockwave" through Israel.

    The resignation, which comes into effect 48 hours after Lieberman puts it in writing, significantly weakens Netanyahu's coalition government and could bring about early elections. 

    Meanwhile, Netanyahu will take over as defence minister on an interim basis.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from Tel Aviv, Akiva Eldar, senior columnist at Al-Monitor, said Lieberman's resignation did not come as a surprise.

    "It was a matter of timing. The Israeli army, the chief of staff and the Shin Bet ... they all strongly supported the ceasefire and ending the closure on Gaza and allowing more goods in," Eldar said. 

    "[Lieberman] doesn't have partners in the military establishment ... they don't think that cracking down on Hamas will put Israel in a better position ... it will give Israel more problems in the international arena.

    "Netanyahu just visited Oman, and we were playing in Abu Dhabi, so he [Netanyahu] is looking at the region and has to be careful not to cross certain red lines. Lieberman was a part of this ... so it is cheap politics," Eldar added.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News