Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman to Palestinians: "Let's Talk"

 

In honor of the launch of the new website of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, and In light of tensions in the Gaza region last week, as well as the increasing public attention to the situation in Judea and Samaria, the State of Israel's Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman has granted an interview to the new site. Throughout the interview, Minister Lieberman discussed various issues relating to the current situation and future prospects of Palestinians, and addressed the Palestinians personally.

 

Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories New Website: Opening a Channel for Digital Dialogue with Palestinian Residents

At the beginning of the interview, the Defense Minister stressed the importance of COGAT's new website as a reliable information center and as a way for the Palestinian population to receive services. The Minister stated "We want direct dialogue with the Palestinian public…not through intermediaries, nor through the media, which is generally not sympathetic to Israel's positions and views. "The Defense Minister expressed his willingness to hold personal dialogue on the internet, using COGAT's website. "I'm prepared to speak with them directly through live stream, to receive questions from them and to answer their questions", said the Minister. 

 

Gaza Strip: Singapore of the Middle East? What is the source of suffering of the residents of the Strip?

In response to questions regarding his vision for the Gaza Strip, Minister Lieberman quotes former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who once told him in a private conversion that "One day, the Gaza Strip will turn into the Singapore of the Middle East". The Minister is convinced that there is no reason for the residents of Gaza to live in the 21st Century with worse conditions than those in Judea and Samaria or in the Western World. Minister Lieberman added that Gazans must understand that Israel, which completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, is not the source of their sufferings, rather the source is the leadership of Hamas, which does not care for the residents of the Strip. "The moment Hamas gives up on tunnels and rockets, we will be the first ones to invest and build them (Gaza's residents) a seaport, an airport, and industrial zones by Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings. We are able to immediately create about 40,000 jobs for the residents of Gaza, but only once Hamas gives up on the clause (in their covenant) stating: "Destroy the State of Israel", gives up on tunnels, gives up on rockets and of course, and this is the first and most important step, the return of the bodies of our soldiers and the citizens who are held captive by Hamas".       

In regards to the tension which occurred last week in the South (of Israel) after rockets launched from Gaza landed in Israel and the IDF returned fire, the Minister said that Israel has no intention to initiate military actions. Even so, the Minister made clear that "Any provocation will be met with a powerful response. I make an effort to run Defense affairs with strength, responsibility, and discretion".

 

Judea and Samaria: Economic Stability and Coexistence

After discussing the topic of the Gaza Strip and Hamas, Lieberman was asked about the Defense Ministry's policies regarding Judea and Samaria, specifically regarding political and economic issues. Firstly, the Minister discussed the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and stressed "The central issue between us and Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is the complete lack of trust in one another". In his opinion, the solution is to build trust and relationships in the economic sector, and that Israel must act more diligently on the matter. "Economic stability and development in Judea and Samaria is also in Israel's best interest", said the Minister "therefore, on this topic we are partners. I would prefer, first of all, to focus on the points we do agree upon, and only then discuss the issues on which we disagree".    

When questioned about Palestinian concerns regarding the Regulation Law and the building in Judea and Samaria, the Minister responded that "Jewish settlementsin Judea and Samaria have never been a barrier to diplomatic or peace agreements". He brought attention to the fact that Israel gave back territory and withdrew twenty-one settlements from the Gaza Strip, but did not get peace or security in return. The Minister stated that it is his position that the main issue is not settlements in Judea and Samaria but rather that the main issues are "the difficult economic situation, unemployment, distress and lack of hope for the future", and that Israel had the ability to assist with these issues.  

In reference to previous comments made by the Minister on policy regarding Judea and Samaria that he had made upon assuming office, the Minister stressed that his policy is to benefit those who wish to co-exist, and to burden those who work to harm Israel. He believes regarding Palestinians that "we should help those ready to co-exist and work with Israel, with employment, permits, and freedom of movement". When asked about work permits, the Minister reaffirmed that as long as Israel's security is maintained "there is no excuse or reason that those who wish to work in Israel, for whom there is work, cannot receive a permit". The Minister added that already, to date, over 100,000 Palestinians are employed by Israelis and that the Israeli and Palestinian economies are codependent. "We are obligated to live here together in this small piece of land, therefore, we should both accept this and search for ways to cooperate and not fight" summarized the Minister.

When the Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was asked about the relations between himself and his Palestinian neighbors as a resident of the community of Nokdim in Judea and Samaria, the Minister referred to the Palestinian village of Tekoa, "I see many Palestinians that have lived next to us for decades and they feel at home in our community, and we really have a decent relationship with quite a few Palestinians here in the region".    

Minister Lieberman summarized the interview by saying "We are an open minded people. We must find the right formula that allows for both our peoples not only to exist, but to thrive. When you make any agreement with anyone, it will not work if only one side benefits from it. Both sides need to benefit and to feel that they reached a good deal".

The Minister concluded the interview in Arabic, calling to Palestinians "Let's talk".