By Mara Vigevani/TPS
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) set off a storm Thursday when he referred to the escalation in the South earlier this week as “measured” despite the hundreds of rockets launched at the region from Gaza, some of which resulted in direct hits to homes with one person killed, three suffering severe injuries and close to a hundred people hospitalized for shock.
“Hamas’ response was measured,” he said in an interview with Army Radio.
“There is a difference between the Gaza Belt Region and Tel Aviv, which is the economic capital of Israel…the Hamas attack was minor because shooting on Tel Aviv has different implications,” he said.
Hanegbi said the prime minister and the defense establishment agree that to “stop the violence with Gaza” there is a need to try and reach a long-term understanding, not to enter a war that would cost hundreds of dead soldiers.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sharply rebuked Hanegbi: “Hamas’ aggression is not ‘minor,’ and there is no distinction between Hamas firing at southern communities and shooting at any other area in the State of Israel” Prime Minister Office said in a statement.
Knesset members from across the political spectrum also admonished Hanegbi.
“Tzachi Hanegbi, my friend, you are wrong, your statement was misplaced.” Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev wrote on her Twitter account, “the law is the same for the Gaza Belt residents as for those of Tel Aviv, any fire that endangers the safety and security of Israeli citizens, no matter where they live, must produce a harsh and identical reaction.”
Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni described Hanegbi’s statements as “shocking.”
“A minister in the government said that the law does not apply equally to Gaza Belt region residents and Tel Aviv residents. I find those words shocking. Are there more equal and less equal persons in life itself?”
Labor leader Avi Gabbay said that a government that distinguishes between the blood of Israeli citizens must end its mandate.
“According to Tzachi Hanegbi, it is forbidden to shoot to the residents of Tel Aviv while it is permissible to shoot at those in the south,” he said. “According to the government, it is impossible to protect the residents of the south. A regime that has no values and distinguishes the blood of Israeli citizens must go home”.
Following major backlash after an interview with Army Radio, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi apologized “if his words on Thursday morning about recent Hamas attacks were misunderstood.”
During the interview, Hanegbi said that Hamas’ response was measured, adding that “there is a difference between the Gaza Belt Region and Tel Aviv, which is the economic capital of Israel…the Hamas attack was minor because shooting on Tel Aviv has different implications.”
In a statement on Facebook, Hanegbi said that “I have never made a distinction between the lives of the residents of the neighborhood and the lives of the residents of Tel Aviv. If so, I am sorry about this.
“The Israeli government has been working to protect the residents of the area with all its strength,” he wrote. “For many months, IDF soldiers have been dealing with constant attacks on the fence, and billions are being invested in building an underground barrier that will prevent terrorist tunnels from entering the settlements.”
Hanegbi added said Thursday’s remarks were meant to mean that a broad campaign in Gaza would inevitably lead to many victims among our fighters, massive fire on Tel Aviv, severe economic damage, damage to air traffic to Israel and implications for the economy and tourism.
“At the end of the campaign, we would find ourselves at exactly the same point as we are today, so we preferred to reach a calm as long as possible, without escalation, for the residents of the south and the entire country,” he said. “These words do not express any different attitude towards the residents of the south, courageous and dedicated people whose government is obligated to ensure their security as it is committed to all Israeli citizens.”