On Thursday, at the annual Herzliya Conference, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas intends, in the long run, to stop all payments of supplies to Gaza and thereby provoke an armed conflict between his rival faction Hamas and Israel.
The defense minister stressed that Israel has no interest in an escalation of war with her neighbors. "I have no intention of initiating any military activity; not in the summer and not in the fall, not in the South and not in the North. Our objective is to prevent war and the only way to do that is through credible deference," Liberman said.
Liberman said that Israel is caught in the middle of an internal Palestinian power struggle, which is causing a humanitarian crisis for Gaza's 2 million residents who have to subsist on less than four hours of electricity a day.
The defense minister was pessimistic regarding the prospects of solving the crisis anytime soon.
Israel began cutting the 120 MGW electricity supply to Gaza by 40 percent, a step which leaves Gaza residents with two hours of electricity a day. The decision to do so was made after Abbas stated that he would pay only 40 percent of the bill to the Israel Electricity Company, which is currently the main power provider to the Gaza Strip.
By denying electricity to Gaza's population, Abbas is seeking to undermine the rule of his Hamas arch rival and regain control of the Strip a decade after his Fatah party was ousted by Hamas in a bloody coup.
During recent months, Abbas also stopped providing medication to Gaza's civilians and reduced payments to governmental employees in the Strip.
Liberman predicted that within a few months, Abbas will completely stop paying for electricity, medicines and civic salaries to Gaza. The defense minister said that Abbas's decision was unilateral and was not coordinated with Israel, Egypt or Jordan.
Abbas is playing a double game, Liberman suggested. "He is saying that we are just trying to weaken Hamas," but in reality, his motive is to "drag Hamas into a conflict with Israel."