Lieberman resigns as Israel’s minister of military affairs in opposition to Gaza deal

Israeli minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman has resigned from his post less than a day after Hamas and other resistance factions agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel in Gaza Strip as the recent wave of Israeli aggression against the enclave had threatened to descend into full-blown war.

Announcing his decision in a news conference, the hawkish Israeli official described Tuesday’s Gaza truce as “a capitulation to terror”.

Lieberman added that he also vehemently objected to Israel’s allowing Qatar to deliver $15 million to the financially-crippled Gaza Strip to pay the salaries of government workers and civil servants last week.

“It is no secret that there were differences between the prime minister and I,” Lieberman said. “I did not agree to allow entry of Qatari money [into Gaza], and I had to allow it only after the prime minister announced it.”

Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beiteinu, will retake his Knesset seat following his resignation. Lieberman also said all of the members of his party will quit Israel’s ruling coalition in the 120-member parliament. Yisrael Beiteinu’s departure means Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only holds a slender Knesset majority (61-59) seats to maintain the coalition.

Another key coalition partner in Netanyahu’s government, Habayit Hayehudi (headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett), said that unless the defense portfolio goes to Bennett, the party will also quit the coalition.

He also called for elections to be held as soon as possible, saying he hopes a date will be set by Sunday.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Lieberman’s voter base is made up of fellow Russian-speaking immigrants, and rightists and secularists who share his hostility to Palestinians.

Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a post published on his official Twitter page that the move is an Israeli “recognition of its defeat at the hands of the Palestinian resistance.”

Abu Zuhri further noted that Lieberman’s resignation constitutes a “political victory for Gaza” after it managed to “stand up to the Occupation (Israel).”

Gaza-based resistance groups announced a ceasefire with Israel in a joint statement on Tuesday evening, saying they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel did the same.

“Egypt’s efforts have been able to achieve a ceasefire between the resistance and the Zionist enemy,” the statement read.

It added, “The resistance will respect this declaration as long as the Zionist enemy respects it.”

The latest spate of Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip saw 14 Palestinian killed and several others injured in 48 hours as the Israeli airstrikes and shells reduced buildings to rubble and sent fireballs and plumes of smoke into the sky.