Israel defense minister Lieberman resigns over Gaza ceasefire

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Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman arrives at the Knesset in Jerusalem. (AFP)
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Palestinian demonstrators burn pictures of Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in front of the house of Hamas chief Ismail Haniya. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2018
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Israel defense minister Lieberman resigns over Gaza ceasefire

  • Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s handling of Gaza as prudence
  • Lieberman describes Gaza cease-fire a 'capitulation to terror'

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday in protest at a Gaza cease-fire that he called a “capitulation to terror,” weakening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition government.
“Were I to stay in office, I would not be able to look southern residents in the eye,” Lieberman told reporters, referring to Israelis subjected to a surge in Palestinian rocket attacks before Tuesday’s truce took hold.
Lieberman said his resignation, which will go into effect 48 hours after he submits a formal letter to Netanyahu, also withdraws his far-right Israel Beitenu party from the coalition.
That would leave Netanyahu with control of just 61 of the 120 seats in parliament a year before Israel’s next election.

Palestinian demonstrators burn pictures of Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in front of the house of Hamas chief Ismail Haniya. (AFP)

Political commentators had speculated that Netanyahu, who despite his approval ratings has been dogged by multiple corruption investigations, might bring forward the ballot.
They also saw in Lieberman’s decision to quit a bid to poach votes from Netanyahu and far-right cabinet rival Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party, ahead of an election.
A spokesman for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud played down the option of an early poll, saying the prime minister would assume the defense post.
“There is no need to go to an election during what is a sensitive period for national security. This government can see out its days,” the spokesman, Jonatan Urich, said on Twitter.
The cracks in the coalition could soon widen, however.
In Jewish Home, which has eight lawmakers, there were calls for Bennett, now education minister, to succeed Lieberman as defense chief.
Bennett did not immediately comment. Losing him would reduce Netanyahu’s parliamentary control to 53 seats, making a snap election inevitable.
But as defense minister, he could be no less a thorn in Netanyahu’s side than Lieberman.
Lieberman and Bennett have spoken in favor of harsh Israeli military action against Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamists, even as the government authorized a Qatari cash infusion to the impoverished enclave last week and limited itself to air strikes rather than a wider campaigns during this week’s fighting.
Netanyahu cast Israel’s handling of Gaza as prudence.
“Leadership also means standing up to criticism when you know things that are classified and which you cannot share with the public that you love,” he said in a speech. “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire, and they know well why.”
Hamas, which over the last decade has fought three wars against Israel that deepened Gaza’s economic hardships, saw victory in the Lieberman’s departure.
“Lieberman’s resignation is a recognition of the defeat before the growing force of the Palestinian resistance,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “It also showed a state of weakness that has overcome the Israelis.”
Born in the former Soviet Union, Lieberman, who has also held the foreign affairs portfolio, established an electoral base among the votes of fellow Russian-speaking immigrants. He also counts among his supporters other Israeli Jews who share his suspicions of Israel’s Arab minority or oppose the religious authority and political clout of ultra-Orthodox rabbis.


Israeli general denies role as US slaps sanctions for arms sale

Brigadier-General Yisrael Ziv reportedly planned to organize attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese. (Reuters)
Updated 4 min 26 sec ago
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Israeli general denies role as US slaps sanctions for arms sale

  • The US Treasury slapped sanctions on Israel Ziv and three firms he controls

JERUSALEM: A retired Israeli Army general hit by US sanctions for alleged involvement in the South Sudan conflict denied the charges on Sunday, saying they were based on false information and that he was available for investigation by the Trump administration.

The US Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on Israel Ziv and three firms he controls, accusing him of using an agricultural consultancy as cover for weapons sales worth $150 million to the Juba government while also arming the opposition.

“He (Ziv) has also reportedly planned to organize attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese oil fields and infrastructure, in an effort to create a problem that only his company and affiliates could solve,” a Treasury statement said.

Interviewed by Israel’s Army Radio, Ziv said he had never trafficked in weaponry and called the charges against him “ludicrous, baseless, completely divorced from reality.”

“We have an amazing agriculture project there ... that many communities depend on. Tens of thousands of people are employed through this project and it feeds the South Sudan market. So anyone who claims this project is a cover should come see it.”

The Trump administration has championed international arms embargoes against South Sudan to pressure President Salva Kiir into ending the country’s civil war and humanitarian crisis.

Two South Sudanese nationals, Obac William Olawo and Gregory Vasili, were named alongside Ziv in Friday’s US Treasury sanctions notice. Neither was immediately available for comment.

“This is not the first time the (US) administration has used sanctions to enforce its foreign policy,” Ziv said.

“I am approachable ... I want to believe in the decency of the administration. And they are welcome to come, to check, to investigate. We will open up everything for them.”

South Sudan erupted in conflict in 2013 after Kiir sacked Riek Machar as vice president. Ethnically charged fighting soon spread, shutting down oil fields and forcing millions to flee.

At least 383,000 South Sudanese have died as a result of the war, through combat, starvation, disease or other factors, according to a recent study by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers.

Under pressure from governments in East Africa and from UN and Western donors, Machar’s group, other rebel factions and the government in September signed the peace accord under which he will again become vice president.