‘Israel's Deterrence Has Collapsed’: Opponents Blame Netanyahu Following Rocket Attack on Central Israel

Politicians on right and left attack prime minister for failing to keep citizens safe as election approaches

A police officer inspects the damage to a house hit by a rocket in Mishmeret, central Israel, March 25, 2019.
Ariel Schalit,AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced criticism from all directions Monday morning, after a rocket fired from Gaza in the early hours of the day landed on a house in central Israel, wounding seven.

Kahol Lavan co-leader Benny Gantz, a former army chief of staff, accused Netanyahu of failing to keep Israel safe. "A reality in which Hamas takes Israel hostage is unprecedented and inconceivable," Gantz said. "This is security bankruptcy."

>> Hamas rocket rains on Netanyahu’s victory parade with Trump | Analysis

After news of the attack, Netanyahu decided to cut short his visit to the U.S. and return promptly after meeting with President Donald Trump Monday morning.

Politicians from the right of the spectrum, including those from his own party, called on Netanyahu to lead an aggressive response to the rocket fire. Culture Minister Miri Regev posted on Facebook, "We have to return to the policy of targeted killings. Only when the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza feel they're being hunted down and are in the crosshairs will they start to interpret us differently."

Avi Dichter, former director of the Shin Bet security service and the current chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said on Army Radio that if the top brass believe the optimal time for a battle that would change the situation in Gaza is April 8, the day before the election, "I think the political circles, led by the prime minister, would not hesitate," even at the cost of putting off the voting.

The far-right Hayamin Hehadash party, launched by outgoing justice and education ministers Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, issued a statement aimed at the prime minister: "Israeli deterrence has collapsed, and it has to be said directly: Netanyahu has failed against Hamas."

"We can expect the security chiefs to tell us again how cowed Hamas is," stated Bennett. "It isn't cowed. Deterred people don't shoot."

Itamar Ben-Gvir, from another far-right party, Otzma Yehudit, said "it is high time to charge Gaza a heavy price – for every rocket, whether fired at the south [or] the Sharon (central Israel), 30 terrorists should be killed, Gaza should be leveled and we should return to Gush Katif."

Rafi Peretz, chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, said that any policy that tolerates incendiary balloons being launched toward communities on the Gaza border will "wake up in the morning with rockets in Tel Aviv and [nearby] Hod Hasharon." 

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon commented that the incident was very serious and the other side should pay a heavy price. "Hamas is responsible and none of its leaders is immune," Kahlon said. "All the organizations in the Strip are terrorist organizations and that is how they should be treated, including restoring the policy of targeted assassinations."

Kahlon later added that the cabinet will be convening on Tuesday and said he was confident that Israel's reaction will be painful: "Somebody will pay the price. And even if they claim it was a mistake, mistakes also have a price."

Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay went further, saying that "Netanyahu should have been executing a plan against Hamas, not be preoccupied with speechifying and money."