Israel's lack of assertiveness in its dealings with Gaza militants is harming its military deterrence, Kadima MK and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Sunday, blaming Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet for following the militants' lead.
Palestinian militants have fired dozens of rockets at Israel over the last week, prompting Israeli air strikes against targeted areas in the Gaza Strip. The renewed hostilities have fed concerns of another large-scale Israeli military operation.
In December 2008, Israel invaded Gaza in response to years of rocket and mortar barrages on its southern communities, killing 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, and causing widespread destruction. Thirteen Israelis also died in that war.
Speaking during a visit to Be'er Sheva, Mofaz criticized Netanyahu's response to the attacks from Gaza, saying Sunday that "the government's policy is wrong and it is eating away at both Israel's deterrence and the security forces' ability to attack."
"We should have exacted a price," the former IDF chief said, adding that since the Gaza War Israel's military deterrence has deteriorated.
"It is the terrorist organizations that have set both the agenda and the timetable for the next round, which will prove to be much harder, also making our ability to retain deterrence harder," Mofaz said.
The Kadima MK said that "Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad are controlling the lives of a million civilians in Israel's south. Evidence of that is the fact more than 100,000 students had to stay home on Friday."
"Our policy had not been aggressive to regain deterrence. Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad need to know that it is Israel who is setting the pace," the former defense minister said.
Mofaz's comments in Be'er Sheva came after the IDF earlier Sunday deployed the Iron Dome anti-rocket system in southern Israel for the first time.
Weeks of stepped-up rocket and mortar attacks have drawn fears of renewed war and led to new calls in Israel for the military to deploy the $200 million system.
Sderot mayor David Buskila criticized the decision to place the first Iron Dome system near the southern city of Be'er Sheva, saying the decision was made in order to "shut everyone up. We all need it, but there aren't enough systems available."
The components of the battery – which include launchers, a radar, the control system and monitor – were each placed a few kilometers from one another on desert terrain, as soldiers from the Israel Air Force air defense unit began configuring the system.
The IDF said the system should begin operating on Sunday afternoon, but has described the step as an "operational experiment," saying the deployment of the Iron Dome and beginning its actual use will take some time.
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