Netanyahu reluctant to consult Security Cabinet demanding tougher action against Hamas

The prime minister is said to prefer consultations only with the security establishment over politicians in his Security Cabinet. 

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his trip to the U.S. and returned to Israel on Tuesday and was reported holed up at defense headquarters in Tel Aviv for hours as he consulted with heads of the security establishment on potential moves against ongoing air attacks from the Gaza Strip.

However, according to members of his Security Cabinet, Netanyahu has not been consulting with them.

The criticism is especially sharp from those ministers who support stronger action against Hamas and other terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip. The IDF has so far been firing back at particular terror targets in direct response to attacks on Israel, but there are those calling for a more expansive operation, striking at the infrastructure and leaders of the terror operations.

“The state has given up the south,” lamented Security Cabinet member Naftali Bennett, referring to the part of the country closest to Gaza, where residents bear the brunt of air attacks from the Strip, which range from rockets and mortar shells to incendiary kites and balloons.

Bennett’s cabinet colleague Ayelet Shaked said: “I really hope that there is no ceasefire. After what Hamas did, they must be punished aggressively.”

Southern residents have complained that only when rockets reach the center of the country, such as earlier this week in a small community called Mishmeret and earlier this month in the Tel Aviv area, is serious thought given to taking major action against the Gazan terrorists.

Bennett and Shaked are party colleagues, having recently formed the New Right party. Though they are expected to join a Netanyahu-led government after the April election, Bennett, in particular, has been critical of Netanyahu’s defense policy.

Bennett has made no secret of his desire to become defense minister, demanding the post after Avigdor Liberman resigned from it in November. He sees himself as a candidate for the position in the next government.

Since Liberman’s resignation, Netanyahu has held the defense portfolio. Bennett has repeatedly stated that Netanyahu is a good prime minister but lacking as a defense minister.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads a party that is fighting for its political life in the upcoming election, said “A situation in which Hamas decides when to fire and when it stops is unacceptable.”

It is this sort of pre-election bickering which observers say is a major reason why Netanyahu has not been enthusiastic about convening the Security Cabinet.

Netanyahu is walking a tightrope, pundits say, wanting to be seen as a strong leader who fights terror, but fearful of taking wider military action that could lead to high Israeli casualties.

The prime minister faces another test this coming weekend, with Gazan leaders vowing to hold more massive protests along the border with Israel.