Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigns over Gaza cease-fire


JERUSALEM  (JTA) — Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister of Israel on Wednesday over a cease-fire with Palestinian terrorist groups — a move that could trigger new elections.

Liberman said the decision to agree to a cease-fire, which followed 25 hours of bombings into southern Israel from Gaza, was “a capitulation to terror.” He announced his resignation at an early afternoon news conference after first informing his Yisrael Beiteinu party, which he heads.

He said the five members of his party will quit the ruling government coalition and called for new elections to be held as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly will assume the defense minister’s portfolio. Netanyahu also holds the foreign minister portfolio.

With Yisrael Beiteinu exiting the government, the coalition led by Netanyahu still has the narrowest of majorities in the 120-member Knesset with 61 seats.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Home party, which has eight seats in the government, said it will leave the government if its leader, Naftali Bennett, is not named to replace Liberman. Bennett now serves as education minister and heads the Diaspora portfolio.

Both Liberman and Bennett were opposed to the cease-fire struck on Tuesday night.

“What happened yesterday with the cease-fire with Hamas was a capitulation to terror,” Liberman said in announcing his resignation. “There is no other definition for it, no other significance. We are buying short-term calm for long-term harm to security.”

Liberman also said he had not agreed to allow fuel from Qatar and $15 million in cash to enter the Gaza Strip, arguing that it could be used to fund terrorism.

He has previously called for dealing Hamas “a severe blow” in order to restore quiet to Israel’s southern border.

Hamas in a statement following Liberman’s announcement called his resignation “recognition of (Israel’s) defeat at the hands of the Palestinian resistance” and a “victory for Gaza” against the occupation.

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