Labor leader Isaac Herzog..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Right-wing politicians called Israel’s acceptance of an Egypt-brokered cease-fire a grave mistake on Tuesday morning, while the Left said it was the right move but should be accompanied by peace talks.
When the cease-fire accepted by Israel failed as Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israeli civilians, MKs on both sides of the spectrum called for heavy air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) called to “fix the cabinet’s mistaken decision from the morning and let the army do what it’s supposed to do.” He made the remark several hours before he was removed from his post by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
“The government should start a limited ground incursion near the border to find terrorist tunnels,” MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) suggested in an interview with Army Radio.
Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah told Army Radio, “It was the right thing to do to agree to the cease-fire, but since Hamas continued shooting at us, it was also the right thing to resume firing.”
However, in the morning opinions were split, as politicians on the Left praised the unilateral cease-fire while right-wing MKs blasted it. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said the IDF had dealt a significant blow to Hamas and now is the time for Israel to “increase cooperation with regional moderates” such as Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism.
“If the government doesn’t know how to translate the ceasefire into a basis to immediately bring a change, it will be worthless and just another break before the next escalation. Unfortunately, Netanyahu didn’t take advantage of the years of quiet he was given to achieve a peace treaty and the time has come to stop this endless cycle and understand the only way to protect Israel is with a long-term diplomatic agreement,” Herzog said in a meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said Israel must provide incentives to moderates to overthrow the extremists and prevent rocket fire from Gaza in the future, including opening the Strip’s borders and allowing goods to go through the Rafah crossing from Egypt.
“The prime minister’s challenge is to not only accept temporary quiet so there will be repeated military operations, but to act courageously and strengthen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and present a true diplomatic vision to end the conflict and the cycle of bloodshed,” Gal-On said.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) suggested that Israel would be better off not losing its international legitimacy to act “before sinking in the Gazan sand from which there is no return.”
Some of the government’s more hawkish ministers criticized the proffered cease-fire, saying the IDF should crush Hamas.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) said much more could be achieved by not having a cease-fire. “We did not remove the threat and did not eliminate Hamas’s leadership,” he said. “If we were to win, the world would applause us. Finishing the operation in this way [with a cease-fire] will bring diplomatic pressure on Israel.”
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) called the cease-fire a “strategic error” for which Israelis will be sorry. “No one doubts that it’s only a matter of time until more missiles are shot at Israel. We need to crush the serpent’s head and not let him rest,” he said.
Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) called on the prime minister to defeat Hamas through military action on land, air, and sea.
“This window of opportunity will not return and every ceasefire will allow Hamas to go back to its original strength,” she said.
MK Eli Yishai (Shas) said, “The Israeli government has a commitment to Israeli citizens’ security, and a cease-fire contradicts that commitment. We have a responsibility and the ability to bring down Hamas’s infrastructure... A cease-fire at this time is a slap in the face to citizens and will only be a short break before the fire from Gaza begins again.”
Shas chairman Arye Deri said that his was the only party in the opposition that supported Operation Protective Edge, and the prime minister must be prepared to immediately eliminate terrorism from Gaza the second the cease-fire is violated.
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) expressed hope that “Hamas won’t take advantage of this cease-fire to lick its wounds, regroup and rearm itself to begin a new attack.”