Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented mayors and heads of regional councils near the Gaza border with a plan that includes giving their communities 500 million shekels ($135 million) over the next two years.
The plan will be brought for cabinet approval in the next few weeks, Netanyahu said at the meeting, which took place in his office in Jerusalem on Thursday evening.
Netanyahu said he was unable to present an overall picture to the public on Israel’s actions concerning the Gaza Strip. "More is hidden than is known," he told the mayors and council heads. On Wednesday, Netanyahu said at the official annual memorial ceremony for David and Paul Ben-Gurion at their graveside in Sde Boker in the Negev: "The public sometimes cannot be a part of decisive considerations. They must be hidden from our enemy."
The plans presented to the municipal officials include improving the emergency medical services in the communities near the Gaza border, along with additional funding for informal education programs and social services. The plan also includes grants to communities to aid in day-to-day functioning, aid to farmers and subsidies for daycare.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Interior Minister Arye Dery also attended the meeting, as did IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and the head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi. The mayor of Sderot attended along with the heads of the Sdot Negev, Merhavim, Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar Hanegev regional councils.
The meeting was held after residents of the region criticized the security situation in the south. On Thursday evening, about 1,000 residents of southern Israel blocked the Azrieli intersection in central Tel Aviv, which is very close to the IDF’s headquarters in the Kirya, and also tried to close down the nearby Ayalon Highway – but police prevented them from doing so.
The organizers’ slogan for the demonstration was, "the south will not be silent," and some demonstrators called for Netanyahu to resign and confronted police who tried to maintain order. Demonstrators shouted, "the silence of communities in the south is over," and yelled slogans such as, "if there is no quiet in the south there won't be quite anywhere."
On Wednesday, at the ceremony in honor of Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, Netanyahu said: "At these moments, leadership is not to do the easy thing; leadership is to do the right thing, even if it is difficult. Leadership is sometimes facing criticism, when you know confidential and sensitive information that you cannot share with the citizens of Israel, and in this case with the residents of the south, whom I love and appreciate greatly."
"I hear the voices of the residents of the south. Believe me, they are precious to me, their words penetrate my heart. But together with the heads of the security forces, I see the overall picture of Israel's security, which I cannot share with the public. I wish I could share with the citizens of Israel everything I know, but the security of Israel – it is mostly hidden from view. Our enemies have pleaded for a cease-fire, and they know very well why," he added.
"I cannot elaborate on our plans for the future. We will determine the right conditions and the right times for the State of Israel, which are correct for the security of our citizens," said Netanyahu.
Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza reached a cease-fire on Tuesday evening after three days of hostilities. Some 460 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel over the past few days. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 100 of them. The military said it struck over 160 targets in Gaza.
A day later, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation over the truce reached between Hamas and Israel and millions of dollars in cash delivered from Qatar to Gaza.
"There is no other definition, no other significance, but a capitulation to terror," he said, adding: "What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security."
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