Gantz pledges united front following weekend security incidents in north, south

Blue and White head calls for increased military deterrence, says despite political infighting, there’s no ‘coalitions or opposition’ when it comes to protecting civilians

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, November 20, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, November 20, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz on Saturday said that despite political infighting, Israel was united in the face of security threats after several incidents on the country’s borders in recent days.

On Friday, a rocket and other weapons fire from Gaza into Israel set off warning sirens in the south. The Israel Defense Forces launched two series of airstrikes against the Hamas terror group in Gaza in response.

In a separate incident on Friday, a drone briefly entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon before flying back across the border. It was not immediately clear how long the drone flew over Israeli territory or to whom the aircraft belonged.

Neither incident caused any damage or casualties.

“The infiltration of a drone into Israeli airspace in the north and the ongoing weapons fire against residents of the south who are again forced into bomb shelters are very serious incidents,” Gantz wrote on Facebook.

“Even in this sensitive and complicated political phase — we must do all that is required to re-establish our eroding deterrence in the south, and maintain the balance of deterrence in the north,” he said. “I say to our enemies — when it comes Israeli civilians’ security and protecting our sovereignty — there are no coalitions or opposition. Blue and White with myself at its head will support all correct and responsible government actions.”

חדירת הרחפן למרחב האווירי של ישראל בצפון והמשך הירי על תושבי הדרום ששוב נאלצים להיכנס לממ"דים הם אירועים חמורים. גם…

Posted by ‎בני גנץ – Benny Gantz‎ on Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Friday incidents in southern Israel came after a Palestinian teenager was reportedly killed by Israeli troops during a protest near the Gaza-Israel border and after several security incidents earlier in the week.

On Tuesday, two rockets were fired at southern Israel as Palestinians marked a “day of rage” in response to a recent decision by the United States to no longer consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law. The IDF launched airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza in response.

A day earlier, a mortar shell from Gaza landed in southern Israel.

Earlier this month, during several days of intense fighting the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, fired some 450 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, which responded with many retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

Three Israelis were wounded by rocket fire during the fighting, and dozens were injured when they fell while running to bomb shelters.

The Friday drone incident on the northern border came amid lingering tensions between Israel and Iran, whose proxy Hezbollah is a dominant figure in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah is known to have several models of drones in its arsenals.

Last Tuesday, Iranian forces in Syria launched several rockets at northern Israel, which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the IDF.

In response, the following day the Israeli military conducted a series of airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria.

Illustrative: An Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 27, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The violence comes as the prospect of a third round of national elections looks increasingly likely, after Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government following elections in April and September — a first in Israeli political history.

The Knesset now has a December 11 deadline for lawmakers to agree on an MK to form a government, or parliament will be dissolved and third elections set, likely for March.

On Friday, Gantz said that lawmakers in the Likud party know that “the right thing to do” in the current political deadlock is to form a government without Netanyahu, leaving the premier outside politics as he faces three criminal indictments against him.

“Netanyahu has become a burden on Likud members, who among themselves as well as in my conversations with them understand that the right thing to do would be to form a unity government without him,” Gantz wrote in a Facebook post.

“If he is acquitted, he can serve for two years as prime minister,” the Blue and White leader added, referring to his party’s proposal that Gantz serve first as premier in a rotational agreement with Likud.

Likud has reportedly put forward a separate offer that is said to have gained steam in recent days. The deal would see Netanyahu serve as prime minister for three or four months before stepping aside — though remaining a Knesset member — in order to focus on defending himself in the criminal proceedings against him.

According to Channel 13, Blue and White has so far rejected the proposal, concerned that Netanyahu will not honor the deal and step down. Moreover, the centrist alliance has rejected Likud’s demand that Netanyahu would be replaced by a fellow Likud member for the remainder of the first two years of the rotational agreement — and that only then would Blue and White take over.

Blue and White maintains that given it received the most seats in the September election, Gantz should serve first in any rotational agreement.

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