Ya’alon: If we’d occupied Gaza, we’d still be bringing bodies home
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Ya’alon: If we’d occupied Gaza, we’d still be bringing bodies home

Defense minister slams ministerial colleagues who criticize handling of war; Herzog bashes PM’s ‘unforgivable sin’ of ignoring housing crisis

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an IDF base on March 10, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an IDF base on March 10, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke out Saturday against hardline critics of the Netanyahu administration, including his own ministerial colleagues, saying that if Israel had conquered the Gaza Strip during last summer’s war, the IDF would still be suffering casualties.

Addressing a conference in the central town of Ness Ziona, the former IDF chief of staff rebuffed those who called for the IDF to reoccupy the Palestinian coastal enclave during last summer’s conflict, saying that “if we had gone for such a move, we would still be bringing back bodies (of soldiers) and (terrorists) would still be launching rockets at Israel.

“We understood that even if we were to bring forces into Gaza (permanently), placing a rocket with a timer under a building and launching it wouldn’t be much of a problem. So we acted responsibly and level-headedly and decided Hamas shouldn’t gain anything from this escalation.”

He said that Hamas suffered immense casualties and that cabinet ministers’ criticism of the Israeli government’s handling of the war at the time and since was baseless.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), who both sat in the inner security cabinet, slammed their own government for its handling of the war at the time, and both have asserted that Israel should have “brought down Hamas” in a succession of comments in the run-up to the March 17 elections.

Meanwhile, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, whose joint list with former justice minister Tzipi Livni is projected to be the largest party by four seats according to the latest polls, went on the offensive Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s housing policy.

The Labor Party leader said that Netanyahu’s inattention to the 2011 social justice protesters’ demands concerning the housing crisis was “an unforgivable sin.”

He said that every seat which his party wins over the ruling Likud party “will be dramatic for the future of the state of Israel.”

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2011 (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Earlier on Saturday a former head of Israel’s internal security agency backed Herzog ahead of Tuesday’s election, criticizing Netanyahu for his record in security.

“Why is this the moment to give Herzog a chance? Mainly because Netanyahu has failed in almost every area and because Herzog is the better alternative,” Yuval Diskin, who headed the Shin Bet agency from 2005 to 2011, wrote on Facebook.

Netanyahu has campaigned for the general election on a security mandate, casting himself as the only person capable of leading Israel against the threat of Iran and regional jihadist groups.

But Diskin criticized the premier on his safety record as well as his approach to peace talks with the Palestinians, which the former security chief said were “conducted with astonishing ineffectiveness.”

He said he was against the prisoner swap in 2011 that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit released in return for hundreds of Palestinian inmates.

“Netanyahu freed dozens of terrorists, several of them dangerous,” he wrote.

Diskin also criticized the most recent Israeli military campaign in Gaza last year, which he said “had achieved no decisive result” against Hamas militants.

The Zionist Union, a coalition of Herzog’s Labour Party with the centrist Hatnua led by former chief negotiator Livni, has made a show of the support it has received from Israel’s security sector, traditionally a key voter influence.

Former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin has joined the Zionist Union list and is tipped to become defense minister if Herzog is the next prime minister.

As well as Diskin, two former heads of the Mossad spy service, Meir Dagan and Shabtai Shavit, have publicly criticized Netanyahu’s security record.

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