Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday told a group of foreign ambassadors that Israel has a right and an obligation to defend its citizens against ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks. The comment came as politicians from across the political spectrum drew lines in the sand over the possibility of an IDF ground
operation in the Strip.
"If an alarm sounds, people in southern Israel - 1 million people - have 15 seconds to find shelter," Netanyahu said. "I don't know if any of your governments will accept this reality. I cannot accept this. The world needs to understand that Israel has the right and duty to defend its citizens. We will act to stop the rocket fire."
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, on a tour of the rocket-hit South, positioned herself against intensive military action, telling Army Radio, "We are on the eve of elections, and operations beyond air attacks or targeted strikes require stability and national consensus at home."
"It could be that such an operation is necessary, but not now," Yacimovich continued.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin disagreed. At a ceremony marking 56 years since the Sinai Campaign, Rivlin said that the upcoming election should not deter the military from a wide-scale operation in Gaza.
"Whoever thinks we forgot how to deal with continuing attrition, whoever thinks that we will allow a quarter of Israel's population to live under total paralysis is preparing himself for defeat," Rivlin stated.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, of the Likud, warned that over time, rocket fire would hit closer and closer to Israel's Center, and that Israel cannot simply shield itself. "There is no escaping it seems, a military decision on Hamas in Gaza," he told Army Radio.
Despite the scope of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza 2008, Steinitz said that Israel has not yet had an operation along the lines of Defensive Shield, the intensive 2002 anti-terror operation in the West Bank.
Steinitz also said that Palestinians were attacking Israel from every side, citing both the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's ongoing UN upgrade efforts .
"We are being attacked militarily with terrorism from Gaza, and being attacked diplomatically from Ramallah," Steinitz said in an interview with Army Radio.
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz said that, in his experience as former IDF chief of staff, the best policy to stop Hamas terrorist is to target and assassinate the terrorist organization's leaders.
"We achieved great deterrence with the policy of targeted killings," Mofaz said in an interview with Army Radio. "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was strong against [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] but not when it comes to Hamas."
President Shimon Peres told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the terrorist attacks on southern Israel are “idiotic,” and Israel must respond swiftly and strongly to them.
Israel is trying to avoid any large-scale retaliation or another war against Hamas in Gaza that would inevitably harm civilians, Peres intimated, but may have no choice if the current situation in which a million mothers and children in the South cannot have a full night’s sleep continues.
Yet, he continued, diplomacy would ultimately be required for a long-term solution. “You can’t fight terror just by shooting,” he said.
On Sunday, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro expressed support for Israel, writing on his Facebook page that, “the United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens from these attacks."
Steve Linde and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.