Gaza border mayors: Rockets on us should have same impact as ones on Tel Aviv

Moves being made in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to extend protection from rockets to 15 km.

Damage to a house in the Israeli city of Sderot which was hit by rockets fired by Hamas militants in Gaza, into Israel. May 15, 2021. (photo credit: AVI ROCCAH/FLASH90)
Damage to a house in the Israeli city of Sderot which was hit by rockets fired by Hamas militants in Gaza, into Israel. May 15, 2021.
(photo credit: AVI ROCCAH/FLASH90)
Several Gaza border mayors pressed a special meeting in Sderot of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to take the defense of their cities more seriously.
 “The rule for Sderot must be like the rule for Tel Aviv, and the rule for Ashkelon, like the rule for Jerusalem,” said one mayor.
The government is often perceived in the South as tolerating rocket fire on Gaza corridor communities, including Sderot and Ashkelon, but is only willing to go to war and take on Hamas if rockets are fired on “important” cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as has occurred in the last 13 days.
This is a common theme from Gaza border mayors, who face rocket fire year-round and during the “quiet” years between wars with Hamas, whereas Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and central Israel are usually only attacked during major conflicts.
FADC chairwoman Orna Barbivai said the purpose of moving Thursday’s meeting from the Knesset “into the field” in Sderot was to show solidarity with the Gaza border towns.
“Another big mistake Israel and its leadership are making is distinguishing between the [Gaza] corridor and rockets targeting other places,” Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi told the FADC. “Whoever sees rockets fired on children in Sderot shouldn’t be surprised that he eventually will get terror in his own house.”
Davidi said that the IDF needed to “smash Hamas” to end the threat.
Ashkelon’s mayor said that 45,000 of his residents had no protection from rocket fire. Other mayors asked the committee to fund new villages in the Gaza corridor as a way of sending a clear message that the country is investing in the area and will not abandon it.
Multiple Knesset MKs said they would support increasing the emergency budget for protection from rocket fire to 15 km. from the current 7 km. rule.
Ashkelon’s mayor said that even as the closest Gaza border communities are now protected with safe rooms and bomb shelters – following criticism that they were not protected during the 2014 Gaza War – his city now suffers just as much from rocket fire, but has much less funding for protection.
One MK said that Ashkelon being left out of funding for rocket protection is part of an outdated concept from when most of Hamas’s rocket capabilities were more limited, and it was harder for the rockets to reach Ashkelon.
“Many rocket protection issues have been dealt with, but there are still very big gaps, like Ashkelon and those villages beyond 7 km.,” said IDF Col. and Home Front Command official Sagi. “We need to solve this on a substantive basis. There is a plan from 2018 to manage [rocket protection for] Ashkelon, and there are many ideas to help private residents, like giving them exemptions from real estate taxes to subsidize the building of safe rooms.”
Interior Ministry official Eli Regev as well as a Finance Ministry official received the most heat from the Gaza border mayors, who framed them as holding up funding for additional protection.
The Finance Ministry official seemed to shift the blame to other ministries, and Regev listed funds his ministry had already allocated to Gaza border communities. But the mayors seemed to suggest that both officials were trying to make excuses instead of looking at the big picture to solve their problems.
The hearing exploded when MK Itamar Ben-Gvir tore into Meretz MK and former IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan for discussing multiple solutions to the Hamas issue, from invasion to diplomacy and more fully rehabilitating Gaza.
As Ben-Gvir started shouting at Golan for suggesting any diplomatic solution, Gaza corridor residents who were in attendance started shouting down Ben-Gvir, accusing him of endangering coexistence between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.
Ben-Gvir yelled back that the residents were “leftists,” though he amended his characterizations at a later point when he was calmer, saying he had the highest respect for Gaza corridor residents, and how much suffering Hamas has caused them over the years.
Golan also said he would introduce a bill to grant the Gaza border towns, including Ashkelon, NIS 500 million per year for 10 years to comprehensively address the rocket protection issue.
Labor MK Omer Bar Lev said he had introduced bills in past Knesset sessions to increase funding for rocket protection for the Gaza corridor, only for his bills to be rejected by the government.