Islamic Jihad is a wholly owned Iranian subsidiary, so not only did the violence
in the South not push Iran off the agenda, it instead thrust Iran front and
center, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Likud’s cabinet ministers on
Netanyahu’s comments came in response to suggestions that the
Palestinians were now interested in a violent escalation to put them back on
center stage, following Netanyahu’s trip to Washington where Iran completely
overshadowed the Palestinian issue.
“This is about Iran,” said Netanyahu.
“If it were not for Iran, these extremists would not have their weapons,
training or logistical support.”
Islamic Jihad, which has fired off the
majority of the scores of rockets that have hit the South in recent days, is
fully supported and armed by Tehran, he said.
Netanyahu told the
ministers that this round of violence “could take some time.” He added that while Hamas was not joining in the firing on Israel, the movement was also not
preventing the rocket attacks, and that Israel held them ultimately
Netanyahu went to the South on Sunday afternoon to assess
the situation and visit an Iron Dome battery site, where IDF Deputy Chief of
Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh and OC Air Force chief Maj.- Gen. Ido Nehushtan gave
him a security briefing.
“You are doing exceptional work,” Netanyahu told
the soldiers and officers manning the battery. “I tip the Jewish people’s hat to
“My directive is to strike at whoever is planning to attack us,” he
said. “The IDF is hitting the terrorist organizations very hard. The combination
of offensive capability, defensive capability and civilian fortitude is a
winning combination – and we have it.”
Afterward, the prime minister went
to Ashdod and thanked municipal and regional heads for their
He said the IDF would acquire additional Iron Dome batteries
and continue to improve protection of the home front.
One official said
that despite over 150 rockets falling on the South over the last two days, there
was no sense of hysteria – something giving the government maximum
maneuverability in deciding how to respond.
Netanyahu justified the
decision to assassinate Zuhair Qaisi, the commander of the Popular Resistance
Committees whose killing on Friday triggered the recent violence, telling the
weekly cabinet meeting that Qaisi was an “arch-terrorist” who organized many
attacks against Israel, including the one last August on the Egyptian
“He was in the midst of planning another attack that was directed
at our southern border with Egypt,” Netanyahu said.” We are still on alert
regarding that attack and I have ordered the closure of the road on the Egyptian
IDF operations inside Gaza “disrupted” planning for that attack,
the prime minister said.
Netanyahu heaped praise on the Iron Dome system,
saying he would do everything in his power to expand its
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, responding to the near
universal praise of the Iron Dome, said that as effective as it was, it was an
illusion to think Israel could fund the purchase of enough batteries to provide
cover for the whole country.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in his briefing
to the cabinet over the weekend, said that the IAF carried out some 26 sorties –
15 of which were against terror cells firing off rockets, and the rest against
arms and other terrorist infrastructure installations.
Energy and Water
Minister Uzi Landau warned about a possible rocket attack on the power plant in
Ashdod, and said that if this happened, Israel should cut off all electricity to
the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu did not respond to this
Meanwhile, Shas announced it will hold its faction meeting
Monday in Beersheba to show solidarity with residents of the
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who heads Shas, said on Sunday, “Our
hearts are with the citizens of the South, who have in recent days been under
constant, merciless attack from terrorists in Gaza. We are coming to
stand by them.”