Israel will maintain the quiet in the South by forcefully responding to every rocket attack coming from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet at its weekly meeting Sunday.
Netanyahu's comments came just hours after the IAF killed an Islamic Jihad member who allegedly took part in the launching of rockets on Ashdod Thursday evening.
"We are determined to preserve the quiet in the South," Netanyahu said. "We do this through a policy of prevention and by responding powerfully against those who try to harm or hurt us. I suggest that Hamas take our policy into account."
Defense Minister Ya'alon said Israel will not allow anyone to return it to a "routine" of rocket fire, warning that "those who try to do so will pay a very high price."
"We see Hamas as being responsible for what occurs in the Gaza Strip, and if it does not know how to enforce its sovereignty on what takes place on the ground, we'll keep hitting its interests. I would not recommend that anyone in the Gaza Strip tests our patience and determination to protect the security of Israeli civilians," he added.
Netanyahu, during his opening remarks, took note of UNESCO's decision last week to cancel an exhibit charting the relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
Netanyahu noted wryly that the reason given for the cancellation was that it would harm the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"This would not hurt the negotiations," he said. "Negotiations that are based on facts, on the truth, will never be harmed, but what does harm the negotiations is the automatic summoning of Israeli ambassadors in certain states over straw issues -- while significant violations by the Palestinian Authority passes without any response."
Netanyahu was referring to the decision by Britain, France, Italy and Spain last week to call in Israel's ambassadors in those countries to protest the recent decision to build 1,400 housing units in the major settlement blocs, and in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in northern Jerusalem, beyond the pre-1967 lines.
Israel, in a tit-for-tat move, called in the ambassadors of those countries stationed in Tel Aviv to protest the protest, and say that these countries do not act in a similar manner when the PA incites toward Israel's destruction or its security officers participate in terrorist acts.
"This one-sided approach does not promote peace, but rather pushes it away," he said. According to Netanyahu, these types of protests against Israel strengthen the Palestinian Authority's refusal to make progress in the negotiations by creating the impression that they will not be held accountable for any of their actions.
Netanyahu contrasted this behavior to that of Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who will arrive Sunday for a four-day visit to Israel, his first ever in the country, and the first visit by a sitting Canadian prime minister in 14 years.
Netanyahu called Harper "a great friend of Israel, also a great friend of mine," and said that under his leadership Canada has reached new heights in standing firm in its moral stand against efforts to delegitimize Israel.
"Prime Minister Harper articulates a clear, courageous and moral stance in relation to the truth and the standards needed by the international community regarding Israel and the conflict here," he said. "I think he has taken a moral stand worthy of admiration, and I welcome him on behalf of the Israeli government and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel."
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.