By SHELLY PAZ
The rocket fire on Sderot and the northwestern Negev will be stopped, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni promised Wednesday, hinting at a pending IDF operation inside Gaza, during a Kadima rally in Jerusalem.
"When leaders of the world call me to ask about the children in the Gaza Strip, they will hear about the condition of the children in Sderot," Livni told the crowd.
The rally was supposed to have been a festive event to present Kadima's top 40 Knesset candidates.
But shortly before it opened at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, Kadima's campaign managers declared the event a solidarity rally with the rocket-besieged residents of the western Negev.
As a result, no music was played, Kadima's candidates were not introduced to the audience and no campaign videos were screened.
"We gathered here tonight to present the leadership that will lead Israel and will decide the future of this country. It was supposed to be a festive election event and an opportunity to light the fourth Hanukka candle together," Livni said.
"But there is nothing festive about this day," she continued. "As we are sitting here safe and sound, the residents of the northern Negev, children as well as adults, who have turned into soldiers against their will, are sitting in bomb shelters."
Livni said further that Zionism had not become obsolete once the State of Israel was established, as some have claimed.
"It fulfills itself in each one of us, especially among the residents of the northern Negev, who are on the front line and who continue a long and magnificent tradition of Israeli settlements that maintained a hold on the land under live fire.
"They should know that the entire people of Israel send them their love, but that is not enough," Livni said. "Both the government and the IDF have the power to change this reality and we will change this reality."
The state was established to make sure Jewish children need not live in fear, the foreign minister said.
"The world that promised to stop terror needs to apply the same criteria and standards when it comes to our rights. This is what Hamas and Iran, who spread terror all over, will hear," she said. "Israel will not allow the Middle East to turn into a neighborhood that is controlled by terror, hatred and incitement. It was established as a home for the Jewish people and it will remain a strong Jewish democracy."
"The fact that we are the only democracy in the Middle East should not work against us and the fact that we withdrew from the Gaza Strip doesn't mean we have left our fate Hamas's hands.
"We won't allow Hamas to determine our fate - the same Hamas whose ideology is to destroy us, the same Hamas that has captured Gilad Schalit and the same Hamas that uses every truce to rearm," she added. "This equation needs to be changed, and it's about to be changed."
Livni warned Hamas that Israel's desire for peace does not reduce its ability to fight terrorism.
"This desire cannot replace the need to act against terror and tonight we are saying, enough is enough!" she declared.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, No. 2 on the Kadima list, also addressed the crowd.
"Our hearts are with the residents of Sderot and the Gaza-belt towns and kibbutzim, but that is not enough," he said.
"We must and we can change this reality. We have faced such situations in the past and we will know how to face future challenges.
"Not one of the world's nations would have agreed to accept a reality in which its residents lives are under constant threat, and the State of Israel will not accept such reality, either," Mofaz added.
Sderot Mayor David Buskila addressed the crowd by phone, saying that the residents of Sderot were waiting for the government to assure their safety.
"We are expecting the State of Israel to fulfill its responsibility to us," he said.
MK Shai Hermesh, a resident of the Kassam-stricken Kibbutz Kfar Aza, also spoke by phone to the audience.
"The distress here is real and causes us all to lose sleep out of concern for our children," Hermesh said.
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