Lieberman after a year as defense minister: “I have no interest in retaking the Gaza Strip”

After serving as Israel’s defense minister for about a year, Avigdor Lieberman spoke with Channel 2 News and commented on several topics that have kept him busy over the past 12 months. Lieberman said that if the IDF chief of staff decides to pardon Elor Azaria, he will have his full support.
Channel 2 News' Dana Weiss and Lieberman Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

About a year ago, Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman became Israel’s defense minister after Moshe Ya’alon resigned. During an interview with Channel 2 News in honor of the occasion, Lieberman commented on several topics including the Elor Azaria controversy, the possibility of a future conflict with Hamas and the peace process with the Palestinians.

Regarding the Azaria trial, Lieberman said that he was not trying to secure political gain at the expense of the IDF: “I only said that Azaria is an outstanding soldier and that on the other side, there was a terrorist intent on killing.” However, the minister said that if IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot decides to pardon Azaria, he will fully support his decision.

Even though Lieberman did not have to deal with a war in the past year, it appears that the situations along the country’s northern and southern borders are intensifying. “Every challenge for us as an army and for me as the defense minister is what’s preventing the next war,” he said. “Through deterrence and determination, the other side will understand that we are serious.” When asked about Syria, Lieberman said: “Assad cannot continue to rule.”

“I have no interest in retaking the Gaza Strip,” Lieberman said. “[Israel] cannot get involved in a military conflict every two years and if we need to fight, then we can’t leave any military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.”

Regarding the conflict with the Palestinians, Lieberman said: “In the Middle East, the word ‘peace’ is not relevant.” However, the minister clarified that Israel is closer than ever to a diplomatic solution thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump and the fact that “the Arab countries understand that Israel is not the problem but rather the solution.” Lieberman added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is advancing the peace process through various efforts.

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