Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi. (photo credit:” AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
By ANNA AHRONHEIM
Two days earlier rocket fire interrupted his campaign speech in Ashdod
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu almost ordered the IDF to go to war in the Gaza Strip which would have postponed the general elections slated for Tuesday, Haaretz reported on Monday.
Haaretz reported that National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat had met with Hanan Melcer, the head of the Central Elections Committee, at the urging of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit about a possible military operation.
According to the report, the action was aborted last Tuesday “at the last moment” by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit who said that the plan required the approval of the security cabinet.
Following the publication of the report on Monday, Blue and White co-leader and former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter that “Netanyahu did away with ambiguity for political ends. Now he’s lost it and wants to drag us into war to postpone the elections. This is a scenario that belongs [in the TV show] House of Cards, not in the State of Israel.”
Democratic Union candidate and former deputy chief of staff Yair Golan said that Netanyahu was not judging his response on security but may have wanted to improve his position before the elections.
“What led Netanyahu to consider a large-scale military operation, and what was the balance for a measured response? Was there a pure security judgment here, a personal insult, or a desire to improve positions before elections,” he tweeted.”We will probably never know, but to rely on the cynical way in which Netanyahu uses security issues to advance his personal survival campaign, an unbiased judgment based on security was not there. “
Netanyahu was assailed by political rivals and militants in Gaza last week over stopping his speech to seek shelter after rocket fire from the Hamas-run blockaded coastal enclave during a campaign speech in Ashdod.
Yamina No. 2 Naftali Bennett said that “a prime minister being taken off the stage in the middle of a speech because rockets are fired at him is a national humiliation. Hamas has stopped fearing Israel. Israel’s security will be restored by Hamas leaders being eliminated and not by press conferences.”
The prime minister said he wasn’t fazed by the rocket alert sirens when he was taken to safety by his security guards and that it would be “absurd” if he had remained on stage.
Following the rally, Netanyahu met with senior defense officials at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv with Ben-Shabbat, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, Military Intelligence Director Tamir Hayman and Netanyahu’s military secretary, Avi Blot.
Mandelblit participated by phone, Haaretz reported.
Two days after the rocket fire that was believed to have been launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Netanyahu warned that Israel may have no choice but to embark on a military operation in Gaza to overthrow Hamas.
“It looks like there will be no other choice but to embark on a wide-scale campaign in Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime. Hamas doesn’t exert its sovereignty in the Strip and doesn’t prevent attacks. We have a situation in which a terror group that launches rockets has taken over, and doesn’t rein in rogue factions even when it wants to.”