PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
With the life-disrupting rocket fire on the South in its fourth day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke for the first time Monday about expanding Israel's military operations inside the Gaza Strip.
"The IDF is continuing to strongly and decisively attack the terrorists in the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu said in carefully measured words to the Likud faction in the Knesset. "The IDF is ready to expand its operations and continue them as necessary." Government officials noted that while some defense officials and politicians have threatened expanding the operations that began Friday with the killing of the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair Qaisi, this was the first time Netanyahu had publicly spoken about this possibility.
"We will strike at whoever intends to harm our citizens," he said. Netanyahu said the "winning combination" in this particular battle was "crushing offensive capabilities," or the ability of the IDF to hit the terrorists "wherever they are," coupled with "important defensive measures" such as the Iron Dome, and "the resilience of the citizens in the south," who are living under a constant missile threat.
Netanyahu also met in the Knesset with visiting Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola and said that the current rocket barrage on the south hammers home the dangers that would exist were Iran to gain nuclear capability, since those organizations firing the rockets from Gaza are Iranian trained and funded.
Israel's position is that there is danger not only of nuclear material finding its way into the hands of terrorist organizations if Iran gains nuclear capabilities, but that the organizations -- with a nuclear Iran behind them – would themselves feel more emboldened to act. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, meanwhile, said
the rocket fire means the Palestinians can give up their hopes of any territorial link between Gaza and the West Bank.
Speaking at a ceremony marking 20 years since the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people, Liberman said the continuing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip that has gone on intermittently for the last 10 years has buried the idea of a "safe passage" from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.
"As long as Hamas is in control of the Gaza Strip there is no chance that we will agree to a safe passage, or unsafe passage, or elevated passage, or underground passage, or any passage whatsoever," Lieberman said. "The Palestinians have condemned themselves to a separation right now that looks like it will continue for generations." The idea of a link between the West Bank and Gaza was first mentioned in the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of1994 when a "safe passage" between the two areas was discussed, and later during the Taba negotiations in January 2001 when one of the few things the sides agreed upon was a passage from the north of Gaza to the Hebron region.
Liberman's concern is that both terrorists and the types of rockets and missiles being fired on Israel today from Gaza would be transported via any kind of Gaza-West Bank link to Judea and Samaria.
Liberman said that just as Iran, via Hezbollah, was responsible for the Buenos Aires bombing in 1992, and the bombing two years later of the Jewish center building in the Argentinean capital, Iran is also responsible for today's terror as well.
The Foreign Minister said Iran was the "oxygen" for all terrorist organizations in Gaza who are firing on Israel and that without that "oxygen" their ability to survive would be in doubt.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on the changes n the Middle East, said he was "gravely concerned"
by the latest escalation of violence. Saying that civilians were once again paying a terrible price, he termed the rocket attacks out of Gaza "unacceptable," and said they "must stop immediately." He also called on Israel to exercise "maximum restraint."