Netanyahu: Israel Must Show Restraint in Gaza

PM responds to Lieberman, Bennett, who criticized Israel's lenient reaction to Gaza rockets; Netanyahu cautions against 'inflammatory' rhetoric.

Prime Minister Netanyahu at emergency cabinet meeting
Prime Minister Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting, June 30, 2014. AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Sunday to criticism voiced over the weekend by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who accused him of being lenient in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Israel, said Netanyahu at a government meeting, will do "everything possible" to restore security in the south. "We must act responsibly and with restraint," he said, and avoid inflammatory rhetoric and brash actions.

On Friday, Lieberman said during a visit to Sderot that "the messages being passed on to Hamas about a ceasefire are a grave mistake." It is unacceptable, he added, "that after three of our boys were kidnapped and murdered, and after two straight weeks of rockets falling, Israel's approach is that 'quiet will be met with quiet.'"

On Saturday, Bennett said that "restraint in the face of targeting women and children is not power. Restraint in the face of an execution of three boys is weakness." The head of Habayit Hayehudi added that the response to rocket fire on Be'er Sheva should be the same response as though they had been fired at Tel Aviv.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid also attacked Lieberman and Bennett at Sunday's meeting. "The government can't conduct itself… like a talkbacker," he said. "We need to quell the flames, not fan them."

"What need to be done now," Lapid added, "is to let the law do its job, to convene and talk and not to let the extremists, both Jews and Arabs, run the State of Israel, but rather let the government and the security forces handle what is going on at the moment."

On the Arab Israelis who clashed with police forces in the past few days, Netanyahu said, "It is unacceptable that people receive social security from the state of Israel and at the same time break the law. This will not continue." On Saturday, Lieberman said Israeli-Arab rioters don't belong in Israel.