(AP/Armando Franca) (AP/Armando Franca)
Avigdor Liberman

In an effort to communicate directly with the Palestinian people, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned, in a rare interview with the Al Quds daily, that Hamas would be destroyed if it dares attack Israel again.

Israel’s defense chief threatened the Hamas terror organization which rules the Gaza Strip, and dismissed the Palestinian Authority (PA) head as an incapable leader in a rare interview published Monday in the Al Quds daily, a popular Palestinian newspaper.

The positions of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman are well known, but it is unusual for the Palestinian media to interview him.

He started his interview saying, “it’s important for me to talk directly to Palestinian people … I tried to do that since I took office … because I believe there is misunderstanding.”

Liberman said PA head Mahmoud Abbas is not capable of signing a peace deal with Israel. “This agreement needs someone else, someone capable of taking a tough decision,” he said.

Liberman expressed support for a two-state solution, restating his proposed plan that it should be based on an exchange of territories, and saying that Israel does not need some areas, such as the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm in the north.

He warned Hamas against testing Israel with violence.

“If they (Hamas) impose a war on Israel, this war will be the final war for them; we are going to destroy them completely,” Liberman was quoted as saying in the full-page interview.

However, he said that Israel has no interest in reconquering and occupying the Gaza Strip and emphasized that Israel does not want another war with Hamas.

Hamas official Fathi Hammad said his group is “in no way afraid and this is a powerful message from Gaza to Liberman.”

In the interview, Liberman also said that Israel is ready to invest in an airport, sea port and industrial park in Gaza — if Hamas ceases its violent actions against Israel and “stops building tunnels and launching rockets.”

“Gaza could be the Singapore or Hong Kong of the Middle East,” he said.

Israel has in the past presented concrete plans for such developments.

The interview angered some Palestinians, with the Palestinian Ministry of Information issuing a statement criticizing the reporter as “giving a stage to the murderer Lieberman.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also attacked Liberman over his comments.

“Liberman is trying to subtly drive a wedge between the Palestinian people, the Palestinian leadership and repeats his attacks on Mahmoud Abbas like a broken record. He is deluding himself that he has the ability to find a Palestinian partner for peace that suits his own views,” the ministry stated.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff