Ben Gvir slams Netanyahu for ‘weak’ response to Gaza rocket attacks, threatens to leave the government
Jewish Power party says it will boycott Knesset voting Wednesday; Netanyahu’s party: ‘Ben Gvir can leave’
Following the government’s response to overnight rocket attacks from Gaza on Tuesday, the Jewish Power party announced it would boycott Knesset votes on Wednesday. The party also said it would hold a special party meeting in Sderot, the town most affected by the rocket attacks, following "the weak response in Gaza last night."
Jewish Power has six seats in the Knesset, so their abstention could potentially cause difficulties in passing legislation, which is especially important as the coalition attempts to pass a budget before the end-of-May deadline. Without Jewish Power, the coalition only has 58 votes versus the opposition’s 56 votes.
"The weak response of the IDF certainly invites the next round [of fighting] that will continue to harm the lives of our children and the normal way of life of the residents of the Gaza frontier and the south as a whole,” said Jewish Power Knesset Member Almog Cohen on Wednesday.
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, who is a former Likud member, criticized the government’s response to the rocket attacks and called for the Israeli military to resume targeted killings of terror leaders.
"The terrorist leaders must be eliminated. It looks as if someone signed an agreement under the table that the IDF would not kill them," Davidi said, criticizing the fact that many of the posts attacked by military forces were unmanned at the time of the airstrikes.
Davidi also said Israel’s response does not demonstrate a position of strength towards other enemies.
"There is no sense in a policy that allows immunity for terrorists; it's a violation of the security of the State of Israel. We need to move to the initial phase, we brag that we know how to reach Iran and Syria and yet here, two meters from us, there is an army of terrorists that the State of Israel does not kill and lets them initiate and attack."
However, the criticism didn’t just come from outside the Likud party.
Knesset Member Danny Danon, a Likud party member and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, joined in the critique. He posted a statement on social media saying Israel needs a tougher stance on deterrence.
"To restore deterrence, we should have got up this morning and heard how many terrorists were decisively eliminated last night. If we continue to bomb empty positions, we invite the next round. That's not how deterrence is built," Danon posted on Twitter.
Religious Zionism party Knesset Member Zvi Sukkot agreed with Davidi and Danon’s assessments. He also expressed his opinion on social media, stating that the current government should be responding more firmly.
"The equation with Hamas has not yet been changed, weakness led to weakness and when terrorism from the north and in northern Samaria doesn't receive a heavy blow, that message is understood in all sectors. And yet. this is the only government in the last decades that has a chance to dramatically alter this terrible equation."
Following Jewish Power’s decision not to attend voting in the Knesset, the Likud party issued a statement that "Itamar Ben Gvir does not have to remain in the government."
"In response to Minister Ben Gvir's decision to boycott the votes in the Knesset plenum: The prime minister, defense minister, IDF, and security officials are managing the sensitive and complex security events facing the State of Israel. It is the prime minister who decides who the relevant parties are in the discussions. If this is unacceptable to Minister Ben Gvir, he does not have to remain in the government."
Ben Gvir accused Netanyahu of sabotaging efforts to enact coalition goals, such as the evacuation of the illegal Arab settlement of Khan al-Ahmar and the decision to halt the judicial reforms.
At a press conference in Sderot, Ben Gvir responded to Likud saying, "I am announcing here that we will not come for votes in the Knesset until the prime minister internalizes that the goal of this government is a full-fledged, right-wing government."
Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich agreed that Israel needs to demonstrate a harsher response to terror attacks.
"It's no secret that I also think that it is possible and necessary to respond differently, better, more firmly, more determined in the face of all threats – Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Arabs in Judea and Samaria,” Smotrich said.
However, he warned that disunity in the coalition could damage the right-wing cause.
“The biggest reward we can give terrorism is to topple a good government, even if not perfect, but a good government. A Jewish, Zionist and national government, and bring the left back to power here with terror supporters. This is the greatest reward that can be given to terrorism.”
Smotrich further called on Netanyahu to hold meetings with the coalition leaders.
“Let's breathe deeply, relax. It is possible and necessary to conduct internal discussions within the coalition. I call on the Prime Minister to convene us today for a discussion,” he said.
Alongside questions regarding the Israeli government’s response to the attacks, there were concerns about the Iron Dome missile defense system’s performance during the rocket barrage. Previously, the Iron Dome has demonstrated an interception rate around 90% for rockets targeting residential areas.
However, during yesterday’s barrages, the Iron Dome only intercepted about 67% of rockets targeting inhabited areas. While the IDF confirmed the system is working normally, it is still dramatically lower than its previous performance.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.