A Palestinian tunnel in Gaza. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Omer Bar-Lev, a lawmaker from the center-left opposition Zionist Union party, warned on Saturday that “the terrorists in the Gaza Strip are rebuilding their tunnels with the same speed and intensity as before.”
Bar-Lev, a member of Knesset who during his military service rose to commander of the elite reconnaissance unit Sayeret Matkal, told a town hall meeting in Herzliya on Saturday that “this government has no policy.”
“If I was the prime minister, I’d say in a loud and clear voice, ‘The moment that a tunnel reaches 200 meters from the border fence on the Gaza side, the IDF will enter Gaza and destroy it’,” he said.
“If the State of Israel doesn’t take the initiative, then [the tunnel construction] will continue,” Bar-Lev said. “The ‘drops’ of rockets will escalate, and we may find ourselves engaged in an even more serious war [than Operation Protective Edge] either this winter or next summer.”
Bar-Lev accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of “burying Israeli deterrence in the sands of Gaza.”
“They either shoot at sand dunes or at empty warehouses,” the ZU lawmaker said of Netanyahu and Ya’alon. “This just ensures that we will go back to where we were before.”
Bar-Lev said that Hamas has used the goods and financial aid which Israel permits into the Gaza Strip in order to rebuild their tunnels as well as their military capability.
“We are not taking advantage of the serious blow that we dealt to Hamas last summer in order to change the reality,” he said. “We had an international coalition last summer which said, ‘In exchange for disarmament of the Gaza Strip, we will help with developing the area’.”
“That would have given Hamas much more to lose and less of an ability to attack,” Bar-Lev said. “After Protective Edge, we had an international situation which was unprecedented - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, and the Europeans, all of them wanting to weaken Hamas and willing to consider disarming the Gaza Strip in exchange for massive development.”
The lawmaker criticized what he called the government’s “sit and don’t do” policy, which, if it continues, “will result in the world imposing very bad agreements on us.”
Bar-Lev also commented on the question of whether Israel needs to intervene in Syria in order to come to the aid of Druse near the border with the Golan Heights.
“The State of Israel cannot stand idly by if there is a massacre of Druse near the border fence,” he said. “Israel has communicated that message to the relevant parties on the Syrian side.”
Still, Bar-Lev said that “if there are gun battles on the Mount of the Druse, which is some 60 kilometers from the border, in this instance we don’t need to intervene.”
The lawmaker said that he did not anticipate any threat from Hezbollah in the foreseeable future.
“The Shi’ite terror organization has never been in a worse state than it is now,” he said. “This organization is fighting for its life, and this is to our benefit.”
Bar-Lev said that the flotilla to Gaza “is a provocation that Israel should not agree to.”
“I hope that it doesn’t arrive, but if it does, the navy will stop it,” he said.