Israel's next war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be the last because Israel "will completely destroy them,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday
Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008. At least 2,300 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed during Israel’s last major offensive in 2014.
Speaking in an interview with Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, Lieberman said Israel has "no intention of starting a new war" with its neighbours but warned that "if they impose the next war on Israel, it will be their last."
"I would like to emphasise again: It will be their last confrontation because we will completely destroy them."
Al-Quds newspaper drew criticism by Palestinians who say its interview with Lieberman amounted to sanctioning “normalisation” with an occupying power.
The Palestinian Information Ministry also issued a statement criticising the paper for giving a stage to Lieberman "to mix things and pass through his terminology."
Palestinian daily Al-Quds facing strong condemnations for interviewing Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. pic.twitter.com/kgJ3GWW7zr
— Khaled Abu Toameh (@KhaledAbuToameh) 23 October 2016
Lieberman is part of what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history. Many members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition oppose a Palestinian state. But Lieberman, an illegal West Bank settler, insists he remains committed to a two-state-solution.
At the same time he said he sees the main settlement blocs in the Israeli-occupied West Bank remaining part of Israel under a final peace deal - a condition that contradicts basic Palestinian demands for an end of the illegal occupation.
Lieberman however proposed that in exchange for settlements, Israel could trade Arab areas in the self-professed Jewish state on the edge of the northern West Bank.
The two sides have long proposed land swaps in order to end the decades-old conflict, but they have never agreed on issues such as the status of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees.
An initiative led by the United States collapsed in 2014. Since then, peace efforts have been frozen.
"Today, I think the majority of our people do not believe it is possible to reach any agreement regarding the final status solution, and the same with the Palestinians," said Lieberman.
"The first step would be convincing the people it is possible by making serious improvements in the state of the economy and fighting unemployment, poverty and misery among the Palestinians. And for Israelis, provide security without terrorism or bloodshed for a while."