In rare English-language appearance, defense minister pins Gazan humanitarian crisis on Hamas-PA row, denies Israeli responsibility
Israel is coordinating its settlement construction with the White House, including the approval for building the largest number of homes in the West Bank since 1992, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the crowd at a Times of Israel event in northern Tel Aviv on Thursday night.
Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements” at a press conference in the White House. But this no longer seems to be the American position, Liberman indicated.
Giving a rare English-language interview, the defense minister said that while coordination is not happening on the level of “every 10 [houses],” there is general understanding between Jerusalem and Washington about acceptable levels of construction in the West Bank.
Even if Israel were to exceed the level that the US wants, Liberman added, the Trump administration still “respects our approach and our vision for the Jewish settlements of Judea and Samaria” — the biblical name for the West Bank. That comment was an apparent reference to the practice of the Obama administration to publicly condemn all Israeli construction over the pre-1967 lines.
At the Thursday evening event in the northern Tel Aviv port, which was jointly organized by The Times of Israel and the Tel Aviv International Salon, Liberman discussed a wide range of topics from the Syrian civil war to his first days in Israel as a 20-year-old new immigrant from Moldova.
The issue of the growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip dominated the night’s discussion.
Liberman denied that Israel had any responsibility to ease the difficulties facing the Palestinians in the coastal enclave, who have access to just a few hours of electricity a day, saying instead that Israel should work to make the world understand that their plight is the fault of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
“It doesn’t make sense that Hamas collected in the past year NIS 100 million every month in taxes… but are not prepared to divert one shekel for electricity,” Liberman said.
‘It doesn’t make sense that Hamas collected in the past year NIS 100 million every month, but are not prepared to spend a shekel on electricity’
Instead the terror group invests that money in “rockets and tunnels,” he added.
“At the end of the day, it’s not our responsibility. We evacuated completely to the 1967 lines,” he said, in a reference to the 2005 disengagement from the Strip, in which some 7,000 settlers were removed from the 21 Israelis communities in Gaza.
Liberman was asked about his opposition to a proposal by Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz to construct an artificial island with a port off the Gaza coast in order to aid the ailing economy of the Strip.
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz at a press conference held at the Ministry of Transport regarding the creation of an artificial island off the Gaza …read more