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Israel’s Defense Minister gets Rare Public Support from Colleague for Gaza Policy and Criticism for Interview

Israel’s controversial Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has received some rare support from another party head for his recent statement linking a cessation of Hamas violence to Israeli efforts to build needed infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Yair Lapid, who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party, toured the Israel-Gaza border area on Tuesday accompanied by a delegation of foreign diplomats and members of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The support for Lieberman’s suggested policy by Lapid stood in stark contrast to the widespread criticism Lieberman has received for doing an interview with Al-Quds, the most prestigious of Palestinian newspapers. At issue was Lieberman’s failure to use the platform to demand the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were killed in the 2014 military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The defense minister has initiated a policy of bypassing Palestinian officials in favor of establishing lines of communication with the Palestinian populace. The Al-Quds interview was the latest effort to do so. Hamas spokesmen attacked the Lieberman interview charging his offer to end the blockade and build infrastructure if the digging of tunnels and firing of rockets into Israel ends amounts to “blackmail.”