While Liberman announced that the Erez Crossing from Gaza to Israel would open Monday, another senior Israeli official claimed conditions in Gaza would only be eased when terror and arson attacks stop completely.
By: JNS.org and World Israel News Staff
On Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he had ordered the Erez Crossing, which is the only pedestrian passage between Gaza and Israel, to be opened on Monday morning.
The announcement arrives after tough talk on Liberman’s part on Friday when the defense minister visited the Gaza periphery and met with heads of local councils.
“I’m not involved in any [ceasefire] agreements and I personally don’t believe in them,” Lieberman said. “The only ‘agreement’ is the reality on the ground. What we’ve seen these past few days is that Hamas has complete control over everything that happens.”
“They [Hamas] had an interest in keeping things calm because of Eid al-Adha [the Festival of the Sacrifice, which began on Aug. 21]. The fact is that these past few days, the violence dropped to nearly zero,” the defense minister continued.
Lieberman said he was trying to establish an equation in which Hamas would realize that terrorism would result in economic sanctions, while an absence of terrorism would carry economic benefits for Gaza.
The Erez Crossing had been closed since August 19, following additional violent rioting on the Gaza border, a weekly occurrence since the end of March, which has been supplemented with rocket barrages and a near-daily onslaught of airborne arson attacks on southern Israel.
No deal until ‘complete calm’ restored?
Meanwhile, a senior official traveling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Lithuania commented that Israel will only agree to engage in indirect negotiations with Hamas about easing the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip when attacks on southern Israel, particularly the areas adjacent to Gaza, stop completely and calm is fully restored.
The official spoke following more rioting on the Gaza border on Friday and recent reports of an imminent ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.
“There is no deal yet,” the official said. “Everyone is working together in a coordinated fashion. Yes, we are working to secure a ceasefire.”
The official said further that Israel would be willing, in principle, to increase the electricity supply to Gaza if Qatar were to fund it, and that it would also be willing to transfer Qatari-funded salaries to Palestinian Authority employees in the Gaza Strip. Another possibility the official mentioned was talks over a potential maritime supply route between Cyprus and Gaza.
However, the official explained, all these gestures would be entirely contingent on a complete ceasefire along the border, similar to the calm following the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
“The goal is a complete ceasefire, including at the [border] fence,” the official said. “We cannot move on to any other stage without securing calm first. The previous ceasefire held for three and a half years. These past few weeks, we’re seeing movement toward restoring calm near Gaza, with a drop in the number of arson balloons [which Hamas activists launch over the border to cause wildfires in Israel] and a dwindling numbers of protesters.”
The official also confirmed that Israel had held talks with Hamas about the aforementioned benefits via a go-between, but said that the decreased attacks on Gaza-adjacent communities in southern Israel was a result of “the harsh blows we dealt Hamas,” rather than the carrots offered.
Is Hamas extorting Israel?
Education Minister Naftali Bennett issued a press release addressing Liberman’s remarks, saying that “it’s good that the defense minister has adopted our worldview and now understands that Hamas must not be allowed to conduct itself in an extortionist manner.”
On Friday, Gazans staged yet another border demonstration, although only a few thousand demonstrators showed up to throw rocks and firebombs and roll burning tires at IDF forces. Israeli troops used crowd control measures as well as a few rounds of live fire, in accordance with regulations.
During the riots, a figure described as suspicious was spotted breaching the border fence, but he immediately returned to the Gazan side.
Burning kites launched by protesters in Gaza sparked two wildfires in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council in southern Israel.
The Hamas leadership warned that “Israel would pay” for the sanctions that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had imposed on Gaza.
In related news, over the weekend, some 200 people arrived to support the family of the late Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and whose remains are being held by Hamas. The family made its 17th visit to the Black Arrow memorial to fallen paratroopers, which sits on a hill overlooking the Gaza border.
Dr. Leah Goldin, Hadar’s mother, said the family had asked senior officials in the American government not to start a new Gaza ceasefire process until the bodies of her son and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, another Protective Edge casualty whose remains Hamas is holding, were returned to Israel for burial.