Bennett touts Gaza calm as prime minister ends one-year rule

Some of the government's achievements, he said, involved economic growth, lowering unemployment and bringing the deficit down to zero.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visiting the IDF's Gaza Division on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 (photo credit: PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visiting the IDF's Gaza Division on Wednesday, June 22, 2022
(photo credit: PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett touted calm along the Gaza border as one of his major achievements on Sunday as he addressed the weekly government meeting for what is likely to be his last time as the country’s leader.

"For the first time in years, the harvest in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip has ended quietly and successfully, without incendiary balloons, fires or Hamas rockets," Bennett said.

"We restored the shattered deterrence that we inherited vis-à-vis Hamas," Bennett said.

He recalled that when his government began its work last year in the aftermath of the 11-day Gaza war in May, known as Operation Guardian of the Walls, incendiary balloons from Gaza had caused no less than 26 fires.

“This was a daily routine for western Negev farmers,” he said. “For years, the State of Israel paid compensation to farmers in advance so that the farmers would harvest early, when their produce was not ripe and, therefore, of lesser quality.”

 The scene of the Gaza rocket strike on Sderot, April 20, 2022 (credit: YANIV KALIF) The scene of the Gaza rocket strike on Sderot, April 20, 2022 (credit: YANIV KALIF)

The past government treated the incendiary balloons as if they were a fait accompli, the prime minister said, adding that his government restored security to the “residents of Ashkelon, Sderot and the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”

"We cannot go backwards," he emphasized.

"We cannot go backwards."

Naftali Bennett

Imminent Knesset dispersal 

Among his government’s last acts was to increase permits for Palestinians working in the manufacturing and service sectors within sovereign Israel from 8,500 to 12,000.

There are some 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank who work in sovereign Israel, but mostly in construction or farming.

Economy Minister Orna Barbivay said in a statement that in addition to the extra work permits for Palestinians, her ministry plans to work to increase manufacturing productivity through automation and digitalization.

It’s expected that on Monday, the Knesset will vote to disperse the parliament and send the country into its fifth election in less than four years. Once that occurs, Bennett will be replaced by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who will hold the post of interim prime minister until a new government is formed.

Bennett thanked the ministers in his government for their work in the past year and urged them to expedite issues that needed to be dealt with before the Knesset’s dispersal which could happen as early as Monday night.

“Soon, unfortunately, the State of Israel will head toward elections, during which certain government actions will not be possible,” Bennett said.

“Soon, unfortunately, the State of Israel will head toward elections, during which certain government actions will not be possible.”

Naftali Bennett

“Therefore, I ask that all ministers, in the days and hours that are left, to clear their desks in order to expedite carrying out what may be done before the dissolution of the Knesset. Our responsibility toward the citizens of Israel continues even in an election period,” he said.

Overall, this was “a short-lived government with great achievements, a ‘together-for-the-people’ government that got things done,” the outgoing prime minister said. “This was a term that will be remembered well and each one of us will have a share in it.”

Bennett referenced the complex and unusual nature of his coalition which included parties from the Right, Left and Center of the political map, including an Israeli-Arab party.

Those who participated in it were “people who knew how to put aside ideological differences, rise above and act for the State of Israel,” he said.

Some of the government’s achievements involved economic growth, lowering unemployment and bringing the deficit down to zero, Bennett said.

“Mainly, we proved that it is possible to work vigorously and honestly – together – for the citizens of Israel.”Reuters contributed to this report.