Israeli MK takes heat for calling Hamas attacks away from Tel Aviv ‘minor’

Leaders across the political spectrum blasted Israeli Cabinet Member Tzachi Hanegbi for saying rocket fire on the south wasn’t as serious as if it had been on Tel Aviv.  

By Jack Gold World Israel News

Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi was harshly criticized by politicians and public leaders across the political spectrum following his comment that there was a difference between rockets fired by Hamas at Israel’s south and at Tel Aviv.

Commenting on the violence, Hanegbi told IDF Radio on Thursday that Hamas’ attacks were “minor,” and that they were mostly focused on the area surrounding the Gaza Strip. “Firing at Tel Aviv has another meaning,” he said.

Hamas on Monday night and Tuesday unleashed a barrage of over 460 rockets from Gaza aimed at civilian targets, killing one man and wounding some 80 Israelis at various locations throughout the south. Twenty-three structures inside Israeli communities were hit by the rockets.

Israeli citizens in the south of the country took to the streets burning fire and venting their frustration after the Israeli government announced a ceasefire agreement with Hamas Tuesday.

Damage control

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hanegbi’s assertion, saying that “Hamas aggression is not ‘minor.’ There is no difference between the area surrounding Gaza and Tel Aviv, and there is no distinction between firing at southern communities and shooting at any other area in the state of Israel.”

Later Thursday evening, the prime minister issued a statement, blasting Hanegbi, despite his apology.

“This morning I heard an outrageous remark, and even following an apology, I have to put things straight,” he said.

“Sderot is just like Tel Aviv. The security of the residents of the south is just as important as the security of the rest of Israel. We are in the middle of a campaign. Patience, cool and determination are necessary. We are preparing for what comes next.,” he stated.

Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev, tweeted: “Tzachi Hanegbi, my friend, you are wrong! As I said this week during a tour of Sderot and Sdot HaNegev: ‘The same rule applies to the communities surrounding Gaza and Tel Aviv.’ Any fire endangering the security of the citizens of the State of Israel anywhere must be met with a harsh and identical response.”

Avi Gabbay, chairman of the opposition’s Zionist Camp party, said “According to Tzachi Hanegbi, Hamas is forbidden to fire on the residents of Tel Aviv. On the residents of the south it is permissible to fire. According to the government – it is impossible to protect the residents of the south. A government that has no values, that distinguishes between the blood of Israel’s citizens must go home.”

Member of Knesset Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, a member of the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, also criticized Hanegbi for his remark sand called on Netanyahu to fire him.

Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel called Hanegbi’s statement “inappropriate.” “How is it possible that a minister in Israel will express himself in such a way?” he asked, calling on Hanegbi to apologize immediately.

MK Bezalel Smotritz said on Twitter that if Hanegbi is not ousted from the Likud party today, then “the Likud has no more right to exist.”

Mayor of Ashkelon Tomer Glam, one of the cities hit by Hamas fire, condemned Hanegbi’s “scandalous statement.” He said that “the dust has yet to settle from the ruins of houses in the city” and yet Hanegbi is already passing judgment.

Hanegbi later issued a clarification and an apology, saying that he did not mean to differentiate between the lives of Israelis living in the south and those living in Tel Aviv, and expressed regret if his comments were misunderstood.