Israeli politicians from almost all the way across the political spectrum voiced their support Friday for the Israeli military operation launched in the Gaza Strip, among them Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s top rivals in the opposition.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu focused his support on the security forces rather than the government, tweeting: “I offer my backing to the IDF and our security forces. We love you and pray for your success.”
But the head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, MK Bezalel Smotrich, wrote in a message addressed to Lapid: “Mr. Prime Minister, there were and are many differences of opinion between us about the government, its establishment and its functioning.
“At this time, you have our full support for an extensive attack against the enemy… a continuous closure due to the threats of the Islamic Jihad is unacceptable. Attack with strength and determination, you have full backing from the opposition.”
The Joint List of mainly Arab parties, however, castigated the operation, with its members accusing Israel of war crimes and claiming that Lapid was acting in order to boost his political standing ahead of the elections in November.
Israel announced the start of a military operation in the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon with multiple strikes on targets of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, with leaders saying the actions were necessary after the group refused to back down from its intentions to carry out attacks against the country. PIJ had been threatening since Tuesday to attack in response to the recent arrest of its West Bank leader, causing days of road closures and community lockdowns in areas near the border under immediate threat.
In a statement made as the operation was launched, Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that “the Israeli government will not allow terrorist organizations to set the agenda in towns near the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of Israel.”
Lapid said: “Anyone who seeks to harm Israel must know that we will get to them. Security forces will act against Islamic Jihad terrorists, to remove the threat from the citizens of Israel,” he adds.
Gantz added: “The task is to protect Israeli towns and the citizens of Israel. We will not allow anyone to threaten or harm the citizens of Israel. Whoever tries, will be hit.”
Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wished “a safe Shabbat for the residents of the south” on Twitter, offering his support to the IDF and adding: “On days like this, we are all as one.”
President Isaac Herzog said he was “embracing and offering strength to the IDF and the combatants in the war against terror” and expressed hope for “a safe and secure Shabbat.”
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli said that “Israeli residents deserve to live securely. No sovereign country would agree to a terrorist group besieging its residents.”
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told Channel 12 that Islamic Jihad “sought to bring life to a standstill in Gaza-border communities and we were not prepared to allow this to happen.”
By contrast, several Arab lawmakers lambasted the Israeli operation.
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, noting the reported death of a five-year-old girl in one of the Israeli strikes, said that “the Israeli government is carrying out war crimes to serve narrow political interests, and Gazans are paying the price in blood. The fire must be ceased immediately.”
The party’s MK Aida Touma-Suleiman said: “Stop the war of choice in Gaza!! Assassinations and bombings will lead to more suffering and destruction in Gaza and won’t bring security to Israeli citizens.”
And fellow Joint List MK Ofer Cassif asserted that Lapid ordered the operation to bolster his chances in November’s elections. The IDF action is a case of “blood for votes,” says Cassif.
The head of the Joint List’s Balad faction, Sami Abu Shehadeh, said: “The latest election polls worried Lapid and Gantz very much. Like [former prime ministers] Peres and Olmert before them, they are trying to pave their way to leadership over Palestinian blood.”