Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigns over Gaza ceasefire

Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, speaking at a news conference at the Knesset, May 18, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, speaking at a news conference at the Knesset, May 18, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned his post, saying the decision to agree to a ceasefire with terrorist groups in Gaza was “a capitulation to terror.”

Liberman announced his resignation at a news conference early Wednesday afternoon, 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 hold the foreign minister portfolio.

With Yisrael Beiteinu exiting the government, the coalition led by Netanyahu still has the narrowest of majorities at 61 seats.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Home Party, which has eight seats in the current government, said that unless its party head Naftali Bennett, who serves as education minister and heads the Diaspora portfolio, is named to replace Liberman that it will leave the government.

Both Liberman and Bennett were opposed to the ceasefire struck on Tuesday night with terror groups in Gaza.

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

He 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.

Liberman 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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