Liberman, Lapid blame government’s ‘surrender policy’ for Gaza rocket fire

Yisrael Beytenu chief warns that Netanyahu’s response to violence in the south ‘is encouraging our enemies in the north and Iran’

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman in the Knesset on February 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman in the Knesset on February 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Political rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed his transition government on Saturday after Palestinian terrorists fired rockets at Israel the night before.

The army said 10 rockets were launched Friday into southern Israel, one of which struck a home in the city of Sderot. No Israelis were injured by the rockets, eight of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

In response to the rockets, the Israel Defense Forces said it struck targets across Gaza linked to Hamas, the terror group that rules the Palestinian enclave, with one man reported killed.

“The firing of over 10 rockets toward Sderot and the communities of the Gaza periphery, when families are sitting around the Shabbat table, is a direct result of the surrender policy of the government to terror groups in Gaza,” Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman wrote on Facebook.

Liberman, who resigned as defense minister last year in protest of a ceasefire to end fighting with Hamas, said the rocket fire was a result of Israel’s response to rioting along the Gaza border during weekly protests.

“But don’t worry, the prime minister’s response is on the way,” Liberman said. “By next week millions of dollars in cash will again be transferred [by Qatar] to the heads of Hamas.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is seen with security chiefs at the IDF’s Tel Aviv headquarters on September 10, 2019, hours after a rocket attack on Ashdod forced him to run for shelter during a campaign rally (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The Yisrael Beytenu chief also said Netanyahu’s response to violence emanating from Gaza was having security consequences elsewhere.

“The erosion of the power of Israeli deterrence in the south is encouraging our enemies in the north and Iran,” he said.

MK Yair Lapid, the No. 2 in the Blue and White party, called for Israel to respond “with strength and without hesitation.”

“Hamas and even more so the leaders of Islamic Jihad need to know they’ll pay with their lives for every attack on Israeli citizens,” Lapid wrote on Facebook.

“Terror needs to be responded to with strength, not suitcases of dollars. The appeasement policy of Netanyahu has gone bankrupt,” he added.

According to Hebrew media, Netanyahu huddled with defense chiefs at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv overnight and ordered the response to the rocket fire.

Israeli warplanes bomb Gaza terror targets in footage released by the Israel Defense Forces, November 2, 2019. (Screenshot/IDF spokesperson’s unit)

Since the start of the weekly “March of Return” border demonstrations last March, Israel has fought a number of bouts with Gaza-based terror groups.

Opposition figures have been highly critical of Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, for his handling of Gaza, arguing it has encouraged further violence. The prime minister has defended his approach by saying a more aggressive response could spark a war and that if Israel toppled Hamas, there is no one who could effectively rule Gaza in its stead.

However, Netanyahu said in September that a war to oust Hamas was likely inevitable, days after rocket fire from Gaza forced him to take cover during a campaign rally in the southern city of Ashdod.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, being moved away from a campaign event stage while surrounded by security as rockets are shot at Ashdod on September 10, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)

According to the Haaretz daily, Netanyahu planned a large offensive in Gaza after the incident but scotched the plan after the attorney general advised him he would need to get cabinet approval.

For many of his rivals, the scenes of Netanyahu being forced to take shelter from rockets provided a counterpoint to the image he has attempted to cultivate as “Mr. Security,” highlighting what they say is his government’s failure to deal with ongoing attacks from Gaza terror groups.

Hamas gloated over the rocket attack, with official Mahmoud al-Zahar saying “everyone saw Netanyahu fleeing because of the resistance’s strikes” and that the incident had “shaken Israel’s image.”

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