As a rocket was intercepted over Tel Aviv, authority was given to call up 40,000 reservists, and a terrorist infiltration from the sea was foiled, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged the nation Tuesday night to have patience, saying Operation Protective Edge that began earlier in the day “may take time.”
“We are not eager for battle,” he said in a recorded video statement, “but the security of our citizens and children takes precedence over all else.”
He said his decision to expand the operation came only after all other efforts to restore the quiet were ignored and Hamas opted for escalation.
“From the perspective of the terrorist organizations, all of Israel is part of one front, and all Israeli citizens are targets,” he said. “Therefore we must stand together as one – united and sure of the justice of our cause. We are acting with determination and assertiveness to return the quiet, and we will continue to do so until the quiet is restored, so that our citizens and children can live in security.”
Netanyahu stressed that the IDF’s actions were aimed at Hamas, and not at innocent citizens. By contrast, he said, Hamas is intentionally hiding behind Palestinian civilians, and it will be responsible if they are accidentally harmed.
Earlier in the day, at a meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen and other senior said that the earlier equation that “quiet will be met with quiet” was no longer Israel’s operating principle.
One government official said that “the game has changed” since Monday. The goal of the operation, the official said, was to “free the population of the threat of incoming rockets.” He said that the government was not looking for a “band-aid” solution that would return the situation to what it was two weeks ago.
“We want to come out with a new reality for people in the South,” he said.
At his meeting with the security officials, Netanyahu gave directions to carry out a “systematic, continuous, deep and strong operation in Gaza,” saying that the time had come to “take off the gloves.”
“Hamas chose this escalation, and will pay a heavy price,” he said, instructing the security establishment to “be prepared to go all the way,” including moving ground troops into Gaza. To that end, Netanyahu and Ya’alon approved the call-up of 40,000 reservists.
One official clarified that no decision has been made to use ground forces yet, but rather to be prepared if that decision was made.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, spoke to numerous world leaders throughout the day, explaining the rationale behind the IDF’s actions, and trying to both generate understanding and garner support.
The prime minister’s message was that Israel had no choice but to launch an extensive campaign, and that the country was acting in “legitimate self-defense.”
In some of those conversations, government officials said, Netanyahu asked his interlocutors what they would do if their cities were being bombarded with rockets.
The official said the fact that the operation was launched not after the first, 10th or even 100th rocket helped the prime minister explain Israel’s actions.
In addition to speaking to world leaders, Netanyahu briefed President Shimon Peres and his successor, Reuven Rivlin, as well as heads of the Knesset’s Zionist parties. He also spoke to many of the local council heads in the South.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, called for Israeli restraint. One government official said that it was a “pity” Abbas could not “influence his Hamas partners to exercise restraint and stop kidnapping and murdering Israeli teenagers and sending rocket barrages into Israel. That sort of restraint would have prevented the current crisis,” he said.