Hamas “begged” for a ceasefire, and “they know very well why,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, in his first public statements since the government agreed to a ceasefire in the south that went into effect Tuesday evening.
Speaking at Sde Boker at the 45tth memorial for David and Paula Ben-Gurion on the Hebrew date of the first prime minister's death, Netanyahu said that he cannot detail Israel's plans for the future regarding the situation in Gaza. But, he said, “we will set the conditions and the right time for Israel, and for the security of our residents.”
Netanyahu, who has come under criticism from his right and from some residents of the south who wanted to see a much more aggressive Israeli response to the Hamas terror from Gaza, drew parallels with Ben-Gurion.
“In times of trial, Ben-Gurion made fateful decisions. Sometimes he did so contrary to popular opinion, but over time, these decisions turned out to be correct,” he said.
“In routine times, a leader has to be attentive to the feelings of the people, and we are a wise nation. But in times of crisis, at a time of fateful decisions regarding security, the public at times cannot be a partner to decisive considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he continued.
The prime minister said that “at these times leadership is not doing the easy thing, but the right thing, even if it is hard. Leadership is standing up to criticism when you know things that are secret and sensitive, and which you cannot share with the citizens of Israel and in this case the residents of the south, whom I love and greatly appreciate.”
Turning to the residents of the south, some of whom took to the streets in protest Tuesday evening when the ceasefire went into effect, Netanyahu said that he hears them. “Your words penetrate my heart, but together with the heads of the security branches, I see the wider picture, and I cannot share that with the public.”
President Reuven Rivlin, speaking att he ceremony, praised the residents of the south for their strength.
"The south is Israel’s ‘golden ticket’, taught Ben-Gurion," Rivlin said. "We must not forget that. When the cannons roar, the muses are silent, but when we silence the cannons we will have to give these wonderful people, these wonderful communities, blue skies of hope. In the footsteps of Ben-Gurion, we must remember that fighting for the south, for the Negev – even the northern Negev – is not just fighting against terrorism. The battle for the Negev is also a battle for culture, for creativity, for art, for economy, for education, settlement and employment. That is the spirit of the people."
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