Israel has a right and a duty to defend itself against rockets from Gaza, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a large gathering of foreign ambassadors in Ashkelon on Monday afternoon.
He invited them to talk with him in a large unprotected auditorium on the seashore that was within rocket range so he could make the case that the violent barrage against Israel’s citizens was intolerable.
To his left as he spoke, laid out a table was a small arsenal of rockets and missiles that had been launched against Israel, including a Kassam, a Grad and a Katusha of Iranian or Chinese origin.
From the podium on a stage, Netanyahu looked out at the ambassadors who sat on rows of folded chairs. To underscore their vulnerability, Netanyahu told them, “If an alarm is sounded, all of us have exactly 30 seconds to find shelter.”
He explained that they were not the only ones in danger. "This is the situation in which one million Israelis find themselves. That’s families, old people, children, babies,” he said.
They are targeted on a daily basis by those who took over the area that Israel vacated in 2005 when it withdrew from the Gaza Strip.
Those that launch the rockets, he said, hide behind civilians in Gaza so they can target Israeli civilians.
“I don’t know of any of the citizens of your cities, who could find that acceptable and something that could proceed on a normal basis,” he said.
“The whole world understands that this is not acceptable,” Netanyahu said.
He added that neither he nor the people of Israel would continue to tolerate it.
“We’re going to fight for the rights of our people to defend themselves. We’ll take whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this. This is not merely our right, it’s also our duty,” Netanyahu said.
“Any fair-minded person in any fair-minded government in the world would understand that it’s our right to defend our people, and this is what we shall do,” Netanyahu said.
To help the ambassadors understood the situation, the prime minister’s office also showed them film clips of Palestinians launching rockets and of Israeli citizens from the south diving for cover.
On the stage with Netanyahu was Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin and Home Front Command Minister Avi Dichter.
Residents of Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot were also present to tell the ambassadors what it felt like to live under constant threat of attack.