Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert speak on the plenum floor at the start of the swearing-in ceremony for Netanyahu's new government at parliament in Jerusalem March 31, 2009.
(photo credit: DAVID SILVERMAN / REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza Strip faced criticism over the weekend from former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Knesset members from parties in the opposition.
Speaking to Channel 10, Olmert said the government has no organized plan for the Gaza Strip beyond military strikes that he said would not accomplish anything.
“Military strikes will not change the situation, will have no impact and will not help in any way,” Olmert said. “The result of a military operation would be many Israeli and Palestinian deaths. At the end of the operation, after a month or two and many rockets fired at Israeli communities, everything would remain the same.”
Olmert, who initiated Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2008, complained
that Netanyahu criticized him at the time for not being tough enough on Hamas, but now “is not doing anything” in a similar situation.
The Likud responded that “Olmert, who competes with Ehud Barak for the title of Israel’s worst prime minister, was one of the leaders of the Gaza Strip disengagement that gave Gaza to Hamas and made it into a base for terror that threatens the entire country.” Olmert said he was still glad Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip.
Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz, who was Olmert’s defense minister, backed him up, saying, “The time has come for the Israeli government to present a new strategic plan that could change the reality between Israel and Gaza.”
Zionist Union MK Omer Bar Lev, who commanded the IDF’s General Staff Reconnaissance Unit Sayeret Matkal, warned there could soon be a war neither side wants.
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“The government of Israel is being dragged by Hamas,” Bar Lev said. “When Hamas wants quiet, there is quiet, and when it wants war, there is war. We know how to retaliate militarily, but not how to take action to change the situation when there is quiet.”
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said everything must be done to ensure that St.-Sgt. Aviv Levi, who was killed by a Hamas sniper on Friday, will be the last soldier who dies on the border with the Gaza Strip.
“War must be the last choice, and it should not be said that there is no other choice,” she said. “The best choice is diplomatic and should be chosen now and not after another operation that results in more deaths. The solution is ending violence, terror and fires, removing the blockade of the Gaza Strip and rehabilitating it.”
Joint List head Ayman Odeh said Israel is responsible for Gaza and must find solutions.
“The residents of Gaza are suffering from the blockade, and the government is not smart enough to understand that more strikes and more warfare will only widen the bloodbath,” he said.
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