Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Saturday that the Israeli government knew that the truce with Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip would not be a popular decision, but that security chiefs were unanimous in their recommendations that this was the right course of action.
In an interview on Hadashot TV, Kahlon said the decision “came from a sense of great responsibility,” but “we knew it would be unpopular.”
The truce with Hamas last week prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to resign on Wednesday, has drawn criticism from some residents of southern Israel who accuse the government of being soft on the terror group, and seems to have put Israel on course to early elections.
Hundreds of southerners demonstrated in Tel Aviv in two nights of protests in which they burned tires and blocked the entrances to cities battered by Gaza rocket fire in protest of the ceasefire, which they say has left Hamas poised to renew attacks at will.
Kahlon, who heads the Kulanu party in the coalition, said Saturday that he did not “reproach citizens of Israel who are angry, because according to the information they have they are right. But according to the info we [security cabinet members] have — and I heard from the head of the Shin Bet, and the head of the Mossad, and the head of military intelligence [in Tuesday’s security cabinet meeting. When] all these officials in the highest security offices in Israel tell us not to do it [escalate], I am inclined to accept their opinions.”
Kahlon also dismissed criticism leveled by Liberman and others that Israel “surrendered” to Hamas, saying the truce was “not a win” for the terror group and came after hours of deliberations at the security cabinet meeting.
He explained that the decision to agree to a truce was “measured” even as he understood the anger expressed by residents of the south who were under rocket fire.
According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel on Monday and Tuesday — more than twice the rate at which they were launched during the 2014 war and the largest-ever number of projectiles fired in one day. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside southern Israeli cities and towns, killing a Palestinian man in Ashkelon, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage.
The flareup was triggered by an Israeli raid into Gaza that went awry on Sunday night and set off clashes, resulting in the deaths of a senior Israeli military officer and seven Palestinian fighters, including a local Hamas commander.
In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”