Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Wednesday tore into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of recent violence from the Gaza Strip and called for Israel to ramp up its response to rocket attacks.
In a campaign speech in Tel Aviv, Gantz accused Netanyahu of sacrificing Israel’s “deterrence” vis-à-vis Gaza since the 2014 war against the Strip’s Hamas rulers. Gantz was the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff at the time of the military campaign, while fellow Blue and White member Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon was defense minister.
“The IDF under my command, together with defense minister Bogie Ya’alon, arranged three and a half years of total calm for Netanyahu, but to my sorrow he did nothing with them,” Gantz said.
“Deterrence is achieved by using force in a levelheaded, powerful and sustained manner,” he added.
Gantz said long-term calm could be achieved if residents of Gaza turn against the Strip’s Hamas rulers and suggested he would return to a policy of targeted killings against the terror group’s leaders if he becomes prime minister after elections on April 9.
“Every target is an appropriate one. Senior officials [in Hamas], commanders everywhere are exposed to a strike and [we] need to eliminate them and not allow them to make hand gestures,” he said, apparently referring to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s flashing of a victory sign Wednesday while visiting the rubble of his office, which had been razed in an Israeli strike two days earlier.
רא"ל (במיל') גבי אשכנזי:
תמונת הניצחון של איסמעיל הנייה מבישה.
זו תוצאה ישירה של קריסת ההרתעה.
נתניהו עסוק בעצמו ולא בתושבי הדרום ועוטף עזה. pic.twitter.com/e8rA5jVYJB
— כחול לבן – Blue and White (@BlueWhite2019) March 27, 2019
Gantz provided few specifics on what his policy for Gaza would be, but said he would not pay “protection” to Hamas and would crack down on leaks from security cabinet meetings.
“You talk about deterrence Bibi — you don’t even deter your cabinet members,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “First get your cabinet in order.”
Netanyahu has come under from both left and right-wing political rivals regarding his policies toward violence in Gaza, which has escalated since the start of the weekly “March of Return” protests along the border last March.
In addition to clashes along the security fence, which Israel has accused Hamas of orchestrating, there have been a number of brief yet intense exchanges of fire between the sides, most recently a day-long round of fighting that erupted Monday after a rocket launched from the Strip hit a home in central Israel, injuring seven.