MK Benny Gantz received a security update Tuesday from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hours after the Blue and White leader said the escalation of hostilities in Gaza would not affect his ongoing negotiations to form a coalition.
“This action will have no effect on the political processes taking place,” Gantz said in a statement supporting Israel’s early-morning airstrike killing a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip.
“The terrorist Abu Al-Ata who was killed tonight was destined for death. Just like Hamas chief of staff Ahmed Jabari, just like any terrorist who commits murderous acts against Israeli citizens,” Gantz said.
In 2012, while IDF chief of staff, Gantz ordered a strike targeting Ahmed Jabari, the acting head of Hamas’s military wing and mastermind of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping in 2006. As the army chief of staff, Gantz also commanded the 2014 Gaza war under Netanyahu.
“For the sake of Israel’s security, the political and security echelons often have to make tough decisions, while assessing their price. Such was the decision on the night’s operation, on which I was updated in advance. This is an operational and policy decision,” Gantz said, apparently dismissing claims the strike was politically motivated.
“I would like to emphasize: Blue and White, headed by me, will always put citizens’ safety before anything else,” he said.
A meeting between Gantz and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman set for Tuesday to discuss ongoing coalition negotiations was postponed until Wednesday “due to the security situation,” Blue and White said.
The statement was the second time in a day that Gantz publicly showed support for Israel’s early-morning slaying of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip, as terror groups responded by launching over 160 rockets at Israel, shutting down cities from the south all the way to the Tel Aviv area.
In a separate strike later in Gaza, the Israeli military said it targeted two Islamic Jihad terrorists from the group’s rocket-launching unit who were posing an immediate threat. The Gaza health ministry reported one dead and several wounded.
While some opposition lawmakers accused Netanyahu of being motivated by political considerations in ordering the targeted killing, others called for unity in the face of the rocket attacks and urged that politics be set aside.
Gantz tweeted that the government had made the “correct decision” in ordering the targeted killing of Baha Abu al-Ata in a strike in Gaza.
“The campaign against terror is continuous and requires moments when difficult decisions must be made,” Gantz wrote. “The political leadership and the IDF made the correct decision tonight for the sake of the security of Israeli civilians and residents of the south.
“Blue and White will back every correct action for the sake of Israel’s security and will put the security of residents above politics,” Gantz continued. “Every terrorist who endangers our security should know that he deserves to die.”
Ahead of the elections, Gantz, who is currently attempting to form a coalition and has until November 20 to do so, campaigned on taking a strong stance against attacks from Gaza. In the past he accused Netanyahu of “erasing” Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis terror groups by holding back on firm military action.