Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu indicated little confidence Sunday in the
durability of the cease-fire with Hamas, telling pilots who took part in
Operation Pillar of Defense they could now prepare for the next campaign, and
reservists that they would likely be needed again later.
visited the Palmahim Air Force Base, told the pilots that they had carried out
the missions set out for them in a precise manner.
“If the quiet is kept,
you will be able to continue preparing for the next campaign,” he said. But if
the quiet was violated, he warned, “you will go back and hit what remains of the
Hamas stockpile of weapons.”
One government official said that the
feeling in the Prime Minister’s Office was that a long-standing cease-fire in
the South would be built on three pillars: deterrence and Israel’s willingness
to hit back at any violation; the fact that Hamas’s commitment to stop firing
was made to its “big brother” Egypt and not to Israel; and halting
US President Barack Obama committed the US to working with
Israel in stopping the rearmament, and talks are expected in the near future to
discuss the operational mechanisms.
Netanyahu said the IDF destroyed most
of the missiles in Gaza directed toward the Center of the country, and thousands
of missiles that were directed toward the South.
“The minute the
operation accomplished its goal, there was no reason to continue it,” said
Netanyahu, who has come under fire from parts of the public for not continuing
with a ground offensive into Gaza to topple Hamas.
“We decided when it
would start and controlled when it would end. If the quiet continues, it will be
met with quiet. If it is violated, we will respond strongly,” he
Netanyahu said he “saluted” the country’s reservists “for their
determination to be mobilized for the security of the state. It is very likely
we will need you later,” he said.
Netanyahu was joined on his visit to
the air base by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz
and IAF commander Maj.- Gen. Amir Eshel.