Gantz Backs Gaza Targeted Killing; Lieberman Says Netanyahu Prevented Same Action a Year Ago

Kahol Lavan chairman says that for the sake of Israel’s security, officials 'sometimes have to make tough decisions, while assessing their implications'

Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, speaks during a nomination ceremony at the President's residency in Jerusalem October 23, 2019.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that he supported the assassination of Islamic Jihad’s commander in the Gaza Strip, Baha Abu al-Ata, and that he was informed of the operation ahead of time. Gantz said that Abu al-Ata deserved to die, “just like any terrorist who commits acts against Israel.”

The party leader, who has been tasked with trying to form a government, also said that “there will be no impact on the current political processes.”

Gantz added that for the sake of Israel’s security, political and security officials “sometimes have to make tough decisions, while assessing their implications. The decision on the nighttime operation was such a decision, which I was informed of ahead of time,” Gantz said, adding that it was the right decision. “I stress that Kahol Lavan will always put the security of citizens above everything.”

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In contrast, Labor Party MK Omer Bar-Lev said that the decision to kill Abu al-Ata had been made for political reasons. He tweeted that “In the last year and a half, there were a large number of opportunities to eliminate [Abu al-Ata], as well as other senior Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders, but the security cabinet has avoided doing so. Why did Netanyahu change his stance now, just seven days before the end of MK [Benny] Gantz’s mandate to form a government? Regrettably, the answer is clear.”

The chairman of his party, MK Amir Peretz, expressed reservations about Bar-Lev’s criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: “There is no reason for us to enter into a controversy today.”

President Reuven Rivlin echoed those sentiments saying: “This is not the time for political disputes.”

Meanwhile, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview on the Walla news site that Netanyahu had adamantly prevented Abu al-Ata’s assassination a year ago. “I thought even a year ago that that terrorist should be assassinated,” but “it was none other than the prime minister who prevented it.”

Lieberman said that the killing of Abu al-Ata was a case of “better late than never.”

Gantz and Lieberman announced that they had postponed a meeting they had planned for Tuesday considering the events and would meet instead on Wednesday.

Kahol Lavan MK Yair Lapid wrote that he “congratulates the IDF and security forces for their precise and successful operation. Deterrence can be restored only with strength.”

Kahol Lavan MK Gabi Ashkenazi added that “Israel sent an important message tonight – every terrorist is under the long arm [of Israel] and his life is in danger.”

MK Yoaz Hendel (Kahol Lavan) refuted the claim that the decision to eliminate Abu al-Ata was political: “They have been shooting at our citizens for two years, without an appropriate response,” adding that the only appropriate political response is to opt for “unity.”

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh lashed out at Netanyahu, writing that he is a “cynical person who lost two elections in a row, and will leave only scorched earth in a desperate attempt to remain in his job. For a decade he woke up every morning with the goal of entrenching the occupation and avoiding the chance of peace – and that is what he did today.”