Tough Talk but Little Action From Lieberman as Israel’s Defense Minister

JERUSALEM — Israel has been challenged by land, sea and air in recent weeks, as security officials have braced for a wave of violence around the Jewish High Holy Days and the anniversary of the outbreak of Palestinianstabbing, shooting and automobile attacks that began a year ago.

A deadly drive-by shooting in Jerusalem, a spate of stabbings in the West Bank, rockets fired from Gaza into the border city of Sderot, Syrian missilesfired at Israeli warplanes, and a challenge to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, by a dozen women on a yacht, have all provided a test of how Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s hard-line defense minister, would respond.

Before his appointment in May in a political deal to bolster Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition, Mr. Lieberman criticized what he called the government’s soft handling of security. Now, five months after his tough talk, Israeli military officials, analysts and Palestinian experts say he has done little to change Israeli policies significantly.

“He speaks of collective punishment,” Amos Harel, a military affairs analyst for the newspaper Haaretz, said of Mr. Lieberman’s threats to penalize the families and communities in the occupied West Bank from which attackers hail. “But if there is a closure of a village, it is not complete. He turned up the volume a bit, but not dramatically.”

Some of the West Bank villages from which assailants have come were closed temporarily, and Israel has continued to strip attackers’ family members of their permits to work in Israel, and demolished their homes. But this did not start with Mr. Lieberman.

“Part of what Lieberman said is already the Israeli policy, which includes collective punishment,” said Ghassan Khatib, the vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank. “This is not new; it is 60 years old.”

The military has long said its strategy has been to try to differentiate between the perpetrators of violence and the rest of the Palestinian population.

An Israeli military official working in the West Bank, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity because of army rules amid the recent resurgence of violence, said that if anything, that policy had been “enhanced.”

When rockets fired by militants from Gaza exploded in Sderot in August, and again last week, causing panic but no injuries, the Israeli retaliation was broader than usual. The first time, Israel retaliated overnight with about 50 airstrikes against militant targets in Gaza, not the expected two or three. The second time, Israeli forces hit fewer targets but did so in broad daylight, rather than in the more customary dark of night. In both cases, the target sites appeared to be empty, and nobody was killed.

Before becoming defense minister, Mr. Lieberman, the leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party and a former foreign minister known for undiplomatic bluster, strongly criticized the handling of Israel’s 50-day war in Gaza in 2014. It ended with an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire withHamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, and without a decisive victory for Israel.

Mr. Lieberman accused Mr. Netanyahu’s government of pursuing a “defeatist” policy designed to buy quiet instead of overthrowing Hamas.