by Israel Hayom Staff
MKs blast defense minister over "empty threats" against Hamas.
Likud MK Anat Berko
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday called for a forceful military response to the latest escalation in southern Israel, saying that deterrence against Hamas must be restored.
Israeli fighter jets struck 20 Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning after a Grad rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in Beersheba, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the coastal enclave, causing extensive damage to the building.
Six people, including a woman and her three children, managed to escape the attack with only minor injuries, as they were able to reach shelters within the 60-second alert time. A defense official later said that the 20-kilogram (44-pound) rocket may have condemned the building.
The second rocket landed in the ocean, off the coast of a major central Israeli city, the IDF said.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee member Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) said Israel has no interest in going to war, but "we are responsible for the lives of our citizens and soldiers and for national security."
"It is time to mount a forceful response," he said. "Those who shy away from deterring terrorism now, after a rocket hit a home in Beersheba, would be guilty if more missiles strike and, heaven forbid, result in casualties. For the sake of Israel's security, Hamas leaders must be targeted."
Fellow committee member MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) criticized the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet, saying, "We are being dragged into a war we do not desire over the incompetence of a cabinet whose members are too busy squabbling in the media instead of taking action.
"We should never have allowed the situation [in Gaza] to get to the point where a home in Beersheba has been all but destroyed. One incident like this can spark a conflagration on the ground. The cabinet is aimless, it lacks initiative, and Israel's deterrence is eroding to nothing while it [the government] plays into Hamas' hands."
Likud MK Anat Berko, who also serves on the committee, said, "A red line was crossed today. Egypt's efforts to broker a cease-fire have been dragging on for too long. Any gesture given to Gaza will only cause Hamas to become more brazen. It's time we see buildings in Gaza blow up."
Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) said, "You can't do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. It is time for the political and military echelons to make unequivocal decisions and to make it clear to Hamas that it bears responsibility for every attack that emanates from Gaza.
"They [Hamas] must be made to understand that they are playing a dangerous game that won’t end well for them."
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay slammed what the government's "impotence."
"We've had enough of a government that bolsters Hamas. We've had enough of a government that allows Hamas to harm and disrupt the lives of the south's residents. We've had enough of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's security failures and [Defense Minister Avigdor] Lieberman's empty slogans. We've had enough of a cabinet that mixes politics with national security," he said.
Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson said that "we need to topple Hamas, not contain it."
Meretz MK Issawi Frej also criticized the cabinet, saying its members were "busy with ego wars instead of pursuing moves that could prevent an actual, painful war."
Defense minister under fire
Cabinet ministers harshly criticized Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday, calling his statement demanding a harsh military response against Hamas "nothing but empty threats."
As tensions on the border continued to rise, Lieberman visited the Gaza Division Tuesday and called on the "entire cabinet" to reach a decision on launching a military campaign in Gaza.
The escalating violence has dictated "the direction we must take in terms of security. We have exhausted all other options and everyone understands that this situation cannot continue. … Israel needs to deal Hamas a heavy blow," he said.
The statement met with ridicule. One cabinet minister said, "Lieberman, who wants to deal Hamas a 'heavy blow' has never presented the cabinet with a concrete plan for with a military campaign or toppling Hamas rule."
Another minister said Lieberman's statements were meant to pander to his constituents "and nothing more."
Lieberman's office released a statement saying, "Cabinet members are familiar with the plans [for a military campaign in Gaza] and the defense minister has no intention of engaging in this conversation in the media."
The statement said that after the recent escalation in border riots and arson terrorism, "It is time to make a decision, not focus on politics."
Diplomatic-Security Cabinet members agree that Hamas cannot be allowed to get away with its growing aggression, but there is no consensus on whether a military campaign is the answer.
Political officials familiar with the issue told Israel Hayom that the chances of a military campaign achieving the desired operational results of eliminating Hamas' offensive capabilities are low.
They said that unlike Hamas' rocket-launching abilities, which were crippled in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the launching of incendiary balloons and kites cannot actually be stopped unless Hamas gives an order to that effect.
A military offensive would also do little to quell border riots, which would probably resume as soon as any Israeli offensive came to an end.
However, the more hawkish cabinet ministers argue that a large military campaign is the only thing that could generate enough deterrence to make Hamas curb the border riots and arson terrorism.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars over the past decade, in 2008, 2012, and 2014.
Israel Hayom Staff
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