Likud chair backs Gaza op, says "ministers should stop attacking each other, start attacking Hamas."
By ABE SELIG
As Hamas rockets continued to pound the South on Sunday, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu inspected a Sderot home damaged only hours earlier and decried what he called the "politics of pacifism" of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
"We're paying for the mistakes of Olmert and Livni," Netanyahu said after surveying the home, which bore the burn marks of a crude rocket on an upstairs balcony. "They shrug it off, but they're ultimately responsible for the unilateral withdrawal that resulted in the creation of a terrorist state in Gaza," he said.
"For three years, the ministers of Kadima have been burying their heads in the sand," the Likud leader continued. "And that needs to change. In the long term, we have no choice but to topple the Hamas rule in Gaza. But in the short term, we have to go from the politics of pacifism to the politics of active attack."
Likud members who accompanied Netanyahu also went on the attack.
"It's inconceivable that rockets are landing in Sderot and the surrounding area, day after day, month after month, and the government of Israel is doing nothing to stop it," MK Yuval Steinitz told a bustling crowd of reporters outside the house. "I have no doubt that if Britain or France or Egypt came under attack, they would operate against the threat immediately. We have to go on a military offensive because you cannot simply ask terrorists to lay down their weapons."
Another member of the Likud contingent, former IDF chief of general staff Moshe Ya'alon, blamed the government for having allowed a "Hamastan" to thrive in the Gaza Strip.
"The decision to protect the citizens of Israel needs to rise above the atmosphere of elections from both the opposition and the governing coalition in order to do what needs to be done," he told The Jerusalem Post.
After his brief appearance at the damaged house, Netanyahu - accompanied by his security entourage and the press - climbed up to a lookout point as the buildings of Gaza shimmered in the distance.
Residents appeared unimpressed as photographers and reporters swarmed around. Yehuda Ben Shimon wanted to know what all the commotion was about as he emerged from his home.
"All we're asking is that the lack of quiet should be over there," he said as he pointed to Gaza, "not over here. This is what I have to come home to? It's been eight years. To say we're tired is an understatement."
Netanyahu left Sderot for a meeting of Likud members at the Holiday Inn in Ashkelon, where a rocket wounded a foreign worker earlier in the day.
Later in the evening, during the first official meeting of the Ashkelon City Council, Mayor Benny Vaknin demanded that the government put an end to the attacks.
"Kassam rockets fell on Ashkelon today and the sound of sirens was heard throughout the city," he told a crowd of about 200. "I call on the State of Israel to fulfill its obligation to protect all of her citizens," he said, eliciting resounding applause.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz told the crowd moments later that he agreed "completely" with the mayor.
"I have no doubt that in these difficult times, the main concern of the government is security," Mofaz said. "We can't allow Hamas to change our daily routines. The government must allow the army to act."
But the crowd was not entirely satisfied.
"You've been in the government for years!" someone yelled as Mofaz sought to continue. "What about our kids?"
Mofaz ignored the hecklers, saying, "The leaders of Hamas saw how we stopped them when it came to their suicide bombers, and we will find a way to stop them again."
"They're stronger now!" yelled another voice.
"Blah, blah, blah," said an older woman sitting in the crowd. "It's just the same old talk all over again."
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