netanyahu checks out kassam damage 248 .
(photo credit: AP [file])
"The residents of the South cannot tolerate an Iranian base in the Negev," Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, responding to the surge in rocket salvos fired from Gaza on western Negev communities.
Speaking while inaugurating the immigrants' branch of the Likud party in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said, "When we were in Sderot three days ago, a Kassam hit the house of a new immigrant and single mother who spoke to me from the bottom of her heart. This is not only a problem of immigrants, but of the entire citizenry of Israel."
Sderot and other western Negev communities have a high percentage of new immigrants in their population.
"We must move from a defensive to an offensive policy and restore our national honor," Netanyahu said. "The situation as it stands is unbearable and we will change that."
Chairman of the immigrant branch, MK Yuli Edelstein, said the party's goal was to secure seven to eight Knesset seats from the Russian-speaking immigrant vote. The challenge was "not simple, but [still] realistic," Edelstein said.
Netanyahu pledged to issue a manifesto describing the party's stance on issues such as civil marriage and conversion, not giving details but promising that "the guiding principle is a solution as wide-ranging as possible."
Netanyahu's main rival in the upcoming election, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has already spoken her mind on conversion and civil marriage, adopting a more liberal stance intended to lure liberal and secular voters.
"The method of changing positions [on various issues] in Kadima ahead of an election is typical not only when it comes to conversion," Netanyahu said.
The Likud leader reiterated that his education minister would be from Likud and again promised that a government headed by him would not cede the Golan Heights to Syria.
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman also attacked what he perceived as the government's lack of response to ongoing rocket fire.
"This is the first time I agree with a Meretz campaign," Lieberman said Wednesday. "They say Barak is not normal. The fact that he's not trendy and not a cool dude is his own problem, but being not normal is everyone's problem."
Lieberman was referring to a Meretz campaign which was shelved at the last moment and would run ads calling Barak "not normal," this in itself being a reference to Labor's current campaign which attempts to reinforce Barak's leadership qualities with bumper stickers and ads saying the current defense minister is "not nice, not a cool dude, not trendy, but a leader."