Economy minister tells Ynet gov’t mishandled summer conflict by ‘dragging it out’ and ‘begging for a ceasefire’ while Tel Aviv was under rocket threat.
Last summer’s Gaza operation could have been over in five days, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told Ynet on Sunday, harshly criticizing both the government he is a member of and its ruling party the Likud.
The Bayit Yehudi leader criticized the government for failing to approve his plan to destroy Hamas’ terror tunnels on time.
“I proposed on June 30 a plan to destroy the tunnels and only on July 18, three weeks later, we launched the operation. Had they accepted the plan as it was on day one, we could’ve ended the operation in 5-7 days, and wouldn’t have caused this massive international damage,” he said.
“We did end up destroying the tunnels – that’s good. But the State of Israel can’t allow itself to hurt its deterrence and drag it out for 50 days – 50 days! – in which people here in Tel Aviv were under rocket threats, while we’re begging for a ceasefire,” he added.
“All of the cabinet ministers – including Lapid and Gilad Erdan – were not exposed to the issue of the tunnels until I put it on the table on June 30 and things started escalating. These things will become clear very soon in the State Comptroller’s inquiry commission,” Bennett went on to say.
“If Hamas had accepted the Egyptian proposal (for a ceasefire), we would not have destroyed the tunnels at all. There was a strong desire to reach a ceasefire. Had the tunnels remained, we would have seen a mega terror attack in 10 communities at the same time on the Gaza border,” the economy minister asserted.
“In Gaza, we have to go in hard and quick, to hit and get out. The exact opposite happened,” he said.
“Sooner or later we will be in another conflict with Gaza, and we can’t allow ourselves to launch any more lengthy operations. A 50-day operation destroys Israel’s international legitimacy,” he added.
Turning to the upcoming elections, Bennett criticized the recent exchange of blows between his party and the Likud, warning that political infighting could damage the right’s political prospects.
“There has been an aggressive assault against us by Likud on all fronts in recent weeks. I originally agreed with Netanyahu that he would move to the center and we would move to the right to expand the bloc. I think we need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. We need to expand the bloc,” he said.
“In my opinion, Netanyahu will be prime minister no matter what, because Buji (Isaac Herzog) doesn’t have the capability to form a government. What matters is the size of the bloc. We don’t want to attack Likud,” Bennett said.
Explaining why not only must his party be a part of the next government, but a large and integral part of it, Bennett said that “We have to always be there to make sure that heavens forbid a government that is supposedly right wing won’t break hard to the left, otherwise we’ll get to conceding territories and more releases.
“The Bayit Yehudi party voted against releasing terrorists while the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu and everyone voted in favor. When they wanted to release Israeli Arab terrorists, I gave an ultimatum. I said ‘we’ll dissolve the government if you release Israeli Arab terrorists’ and we did, it stopped the process, it stopped the fourth release.”
On the subject of Israel’s cost of living, Bennett said that “after a decade of price increases, we lowered the cost of living by five percent. Allow us to continue the work, and we’ll bring it down another 20 percent.”
On the issue of housing, he said that “unfortunately, we didn’t build enough beyond the Green Line. Most of the building was within the Green Line. Uri Ariel, under my guidance, built more than previous governments did.”