Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation and his Yisrael Beytenu party’s withdrawal from the coalition at a press conference in the Knesset Wednesday.
"I am indeed here to announce my resignation from the position of defense minister," Liberman said, immediately after a faction meeting.
“I have tried to remain a faithful member of the Cabinet and to make heard another view, even at a great electoral and political price," Liberman said. However, Tuesday's ceasefire with Hamas “cannot be interpreted in any way other than a surrender to terror," he added. "This will severely harm our security in the long term.”
Ceasefire sparks protest in Israel, celebrations in Gaza, November 14, 2018 (Reuters)
“The response that we gave to the 500 rockets shot from Gaza was not enough, to say the least," Liberman continued.
"The south should come first. Our weakness is being broadcast to other fronts.”
Terrorists should not feel free to riot at the border or incite against Israel, Liberman added. “Hamas isn’t talking about coexistence and recognition of Israel," he said. "They don’t want to reduce unemployment in Gaza."
Liberman asked the coalition to act swiftly to decide on a date for new elections. “Don’t paralyze the country in the long term,” he said.
Asked why he did not quit after earlier ceasefires with Hamas, Liberman answered: "You can't always get everything you want. As long as I could influence from the inside I stayed. There were turning points that no longer allowed me to fulfill my role in the cabinet."
A senior Likud source said that there is no reason to call for elections, and that Netanyahu will retain the defense portfolio for himself, but the future of the coalition remains uncertain.
Liberman's announcement came less than 24 hours after the cabinet approved an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza. While the Prime Minister's Office said that cabinet ministers had unanimously agreed to the decision, four ministers declared that they had opposed the cease-fire — Liberman, Jerusalem Affairs Minister and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi).
"The statement about Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's alleged support for stopping the attacks in Gaza is fake news," Liberman's office said in response to the Prime Minister's Office announcement. "The defense minister's stand is consistent and has not changed."
Weeks earlier, during a meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu faction, Liberman called for a stronger approach to Hamas. “There is no path to an agreement with Hamas," he said. "We will not restore quiet and calm to the South without dealing the most severe blow we can.”