(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday called upon Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to take serious steps to end rocket attacks on Sderot from the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center marking the 30th anniversary of the party's 1977 rise to power, Netanyahu said that Olmert should learn from Begin's 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor that a government's primary responsibility is to protect its people.
"The government can do a lot to protect its people," Netanyahu said. "It could evacuate whomever necessary, enact a closure on the Gaza Strip, stop providing services like electricity and water, or decide on a limited invasion of four or five kilometers to distance the range of the Kassams. But the government isn't doing anything to protect the people of Sderot, because it is paralyzed," he said.
In an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu compared the current situation to that prior to the 1977 race. He said that in both instances, Israel was governed by leaders who had failed in war and were out of touch with the sentiment of the people.
Comparing himself to Begin, Netanyahu said that "Begin was also seen as a danger to peace" and that the slogan "anyone but Begin" had been replaced by "anyone but Bibi." He downplayed criticism in the Likud that he was not doing enough to overthrow Olmert.
"I'm trying to convince people in the Knesset that this government cannot continue, but many of them are too interested in sticking to their jobs," Netanyahu said. "The reason Shas isn't leaving is not because I haven't met with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Overthrowing a government is a process that develops, and we're getting there."
Netanyahu's Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom, met with Yosef earlier this week in an effort to persuade him to topple Olmert; he has also met with Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. Shalom said the rabbi told him that the Shas Council of Torah Sages would meet soon to consider the matter.
"Bibi is paralyzed and it's unexplainable," Shalom said earlier this week. "We needed to do something and he wasn't doing it, so I decided to do it myself. If he doesn't do anything, there won't be elections any time soon."
The faction, joined by Likud MKs from 1977, watched a broadcast of the coverage of Begin's victory. The MKs laughed when Begin said in his victory speech that he was waiting for a "telegram of congratulations" from vanquished Labor candidate Shimon Peres.
Netanyahu defined Begin's legacy as "remaining consistent with one's vision, fighting for it, knowing how to lose and keeping on fighting for it until it is achieved."