Labor, Kadima, Olmert, Livni back government’s air assault on Hamas

Hawks demand strikes on Hamas political leaders, far-left says assassination of terror chiefs will only yield escalation

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Labor party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)
Labor party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)

Israeli politicians from almost across the spectrum Wednesday hailed the government’s decision to embark on a major air operation in Gaza and the killing of the leader of Hamas’s military wing, Ahmed Jabari. Only some on the far left condemned the Jabari assassination, arguing that targeted killings do nothing to advance peace and merely perpetuate the cycle of violence.

On the right, there were calls from some politicians for the killings, too, of Hamas political leaders. On the center left, by contrast, politicians said they hoped the operation would not develop into a wider escalation and ground war.

Less than 70 days before Israel heads to the polls, on January 22, most politicians from Israel’s mainstream parties hurried to comment in the media and release statements congratulating the IDF on its successful mission. Would-be returning politicians Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni also endorsed the resort to Operation Pillar of Defense to try to restore quiet to the south after the upsurge in Hamas-overseen rocket attacks this week.

“This is one of the days on which I am proud to be Israeli,” said Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud). “Israel at once restored its deterrence and proved to its enemy that it doesn’t only talk but also acts.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) also praised the operation, and said that “all options are on the table” to stop the continuing rocket fire from Gaza.

Likud Environment Minister Gilad Erdan and Likud MK Danny Danon said they hoped Israel would also strike at Hamas political leaders, including Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Elsewhere on the right, National Union chairman Uri Ariel called on the IDF to expand its military operation. “Let the IDF win,” he said. “This pinpoint attack cannot be our final act. Israel needs to continue and hit the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip with all its might. The Israeli government must keep up the pressure until it topples the evil regime that is keeping thousands of Israeli residents from leading normal and peaceful lives.”

“I welcome this successful operation by the IDF,” said Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu). “We are talking about a fundamental change in our policy. No more mere responding, but a systematic targeting of all those involved in terror.”

Naftali Bennett, the incoming chairman of the Jewish Home party, posted a photo of Jabari’s burned out car on his Facebook profile, together with the words of the blessing thanking God, “who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.” He pronounced the same blessing when he won his party’s leadership race last week.

Some political analysts predicted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will try to make political capital out of the operation. “The killing of Hamas’s military chief will be for Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak like the killing of Osama Bin-Laden was for Barack Obama,” Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid tweeted.

But that tone was notably absent even among some politicians critical of the current government, who hailed Jabari’s assassination and were plainly anxious to stand with the perceived public consensus in favor of a robust response to the latest Hamas violence.

“This strengthens the hands of the residents of the South, of IDF soldiers and of the security agents,” said opposition leader and former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz. “Israel must protect its citizens in any way possible,” the Kadima chairman said, adding that during his time as defense minister he ordered the elimination of Jabari’s predecessor, Salah Shehadeh, and that he would have given the same order today as well. “The entire last week I said that Hamas is responsible for the terror emanating from Gaza and has to pay a heavy price for this.”

Labor chairman Shelly Yachimovich called Jabari an “arch terrorist” who belonged to the most radical members of Hamas. He had the blood of many Israelis on his hands and his assassination was justified, she said. “Israel is united in its fight on terrorism,” she said, but added that Israel should move forward in coordination with the United States and the international community and seek to avoid further escalation.

Former journalist and Knesset hopeful Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) said killing Jabari was more than justified. “No country in the world would agree to or remain silent in the face of continuous rocket fire on its citizens,” he said.

Former foreign minister Livni also commented, congratulating the IDF and the Shin Bet security agency on killing Jabari. “It’s appropriate to assassinate the head of a terror organizations who is responsible for spilling the blood of Israeli citizens.”

Former prime minister Olmert, just back from the US, backed the operation, and ruled out discussion of his will he/won’t he political comeback while the operation was ongoing,

Politicians on the far-left, on the other hand, said that targeted killings are unproductive. “This will only lead to an escalation,” said Ahmad Tibi, of the Arab Balad party.

“I hope the assassination will not lead to a further escalation that will cause the residents of the south unnecessary suffering,” said Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-on. “The only way to bring a viable peace to the residents of the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip is by arranging a long-term ceasefire and not by assassinations, she said.

Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz explicitly called on the IDF to stop targeted killings in Gaza. “Enough with the circle of violence,” he posted on his Facebook profile. “No to another war that won’t achieve a thing.”

Meretz’s Ilan Gilon said that it was Israel’s duty to protect its citizens but suggested Jabari’s assassination was planned and executed with political considerations in mind.

MK Dov Khenin, from the far-left Jewish-Arab Hadash party, said Jabari’s assassination was reason for grave concern. “When will they finally understand that after every killing comes the revenge, which is followed by a [military] response, and after that comes an operation, and that is followed by war?”

There was also some critical comment from the right. Moshe Feiglin, a far-right Likud member who unsuccessfully challenged Netanyahu for the party leadership several times, congratulated those who killed Jabari. “But our reaction must be proportional to what happened,” he said. “Strategically, this assassination changes nothing. All in all, we have now entered a new round of fighting. If we want to make a strategic change, we must first be convinced that we are right. We must internalize that this is our land. Not their land, our land. Yes, that includes Gaza.

“The ecstasy that Israel is broadcasting to the world right now paints the opposite picture and will bring about a further loss of legitimacy and deterrence,” said Feiglin.


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