Knesset members from the right and left wings of the political spectrum criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a Wednesday address declaring victory in the Gaza military campaign, with lawmakers arguing that the Israeli leader failed to live up to the promises he made and is increasingly losing public trust.
Netanyahu’s speech, in which he claimed Hamas suffered a near-fatal military and diplomatic blow, but also acknowledged that he could not guarantee sustained quiet, was his first public statement since Israel and the Gazan terror group agreed to a ceasefire Tuesday, ending 50 days of fighting.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) called the prime minister’s speech “bleak,” and said Netanyahu had “lost the Israeli public’s trust, particularly residents of Gaza border towns,” many of whom have denounced the ceasefire deal.
“The army won, but the government failed, and we will make efforts to replace it, to demonstrate political determination while maintaining Israel’s security and striving for peace,” he said.
“This is the same government which failed in its talks with the Palestinian Authority,” he said. He called for an internationally backed diplomatic resolution that would “choke Hamas and its supporters.”
The opposition leader strongly criticized Netanyahu’s leadership skills, arguing the prime minister “is more preoccupied with the shaky relationship of his cabinet than with providing solutions for the Israeli public.”
“The public got a bleak picture of a government which is incapable of acting together responsibly even during wartime, and this [constitutes] strategic damage to the security of the State of Israel,” he said.
Herzog also said the conflict “could have been avoided” if Netanyahu had exploited opportunities for diplomatic progress with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Herzog’s comments came a day after Netanyahu publicly reprimanded his ministers during the press conference, saying he expected them to “behave responsibly.”
During the press conference, held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Hamas had achieved none of its stated objectives during the campaign, estimated it would be wary of initiating another round of violence, and indicated that planned indirect negotiations on a long-term arrangement next month might go nowhere
MK Zahava Gal-on of the left-wing Meretz party accused Netanyahu of also failing to achieve any of the goals that he set for the campaign, which began on July 8 with a promise to restore quiet by stemming Gazan rocket fire and later expanded to include destruction of a network of cross-border tunnels used to infiltrate Israel.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu promised the disarmament of the Strip from weapons, the dismantling of Hamas infrastructure and long-term deterrence and quiet for the southern residents,” she said. “None of those promises were implemented.”
Gal-on argued that if the prime minister only deals with Hamas, and does not boost the standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “We will be witness to, God forbid, additional rounds of violence in a year to two years.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s fellow party member Likud MK Danny Danon, who was fired by the prime minister from his position of deputy defense minister during the operation, declared that the campaign failed in the overall objective to bring security for southern Israel residents who have suffered the brunt of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
“The goal of the operation was to restore the sense of security for the residents of the south, and the fact is that today, there is no sense of security for the residents of the south,” Danon wrote on his Facebook page. “The government ignored the demands of the people to topple Hamas and operated hesitantly.”