Netanyahu Is Keeping Gaza Events From Cabinet Members, Bennett Tells Attorney General

Naftali Bennett wrote to the attorney general, saying the prime minister won't call a cabinet meeting over Gaza, prefers to handle it himself

Naftali Bennett visits the site of a home destroyed by a Gaza rocket in Mishmeret, the Sharon region, March 25, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Hayamin Hehadash party and member of the Security Cabinet, asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit Sunday to obligate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene the cabinet about Israel's Gaza policy.

"It doesn't make sense that the prime minister is managing events in Gaza while excluding cabinet members," Bennett wrote in his letter to Mendelblit. He also notes that he asked the military secretary to the prime minister and the head of the National Security Council to assemble the cabinet for a meeting, but never received a response.

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"It's unreasonable to me that managing security events this fundamental, including advancing a permanent/temporary agreement, is being done by the prime minister and the security services alone, without the Security Cabinet ministers who bear responsibility for this by law," he wrote.

In his letter, Bennet mentioned Israel's efforts to calm the situation with Hamas, leading to Sunday morning's opening of the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings from Israel into Gaza.

On Saturday night, the Israeli army identified five launches from Gaza into Israel territory, a few hours after the most subdued demonstration the Strip has seen since the weekly border protests began last year.

When Avigdor Lieberman served as security minister, he lashed out at Bennett, saying that Bennett's positions in cabinet meetings conflicted with his public statements. According to Lieberman, Bennett rarely took a more aggressive position on Gaza.

Netanyahu spoke Saturday about Israeli measures to establish calm in the Gaza Strip. In a short video posted to his Facebook, the prime minister said, "We do not know if this calm will hold. We are prepared for any development. This is the way we're running the show. Deploying forces as needed and avoiding unnecessary wars, if we can."

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated at five points along the Gaza border fence as part of the weekly protests. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, Three 17-year-olds were killed by IDF fire. In addition, the Health Ministry states, 316 Palestinians were injured and evacuated to hospitals, about 10 of them in severe to critical condition. About 60 of those injured were wounded by live fire.

According to the IDF, demonstrators were throwing explosives and grenades over the border, and the soldiers responded with fire and crowd control measures.

The IDF linked the low level of violence at the demonstrations to the unusual distribution of hundreds of protestors, Hamas members, who mostly succeeded in keeping the majority of the protestors away from the fence. After opening the crossings to goods and Palestinians with exit permits, Israel expects to decide Sunday morning whether to allow fishing off the Gaza coast.

The IDF closed the border crossings and forbade fishing off the Gaza coast after a rocket fired from Gaza destroyed a house and wounded seven in the central Israeli community of Mishmeret last week. If the quiet persists, Israel expects to ease additional measures on Gaza in coordination with Egyptian mediation efforts.