In an open dialogue with new recruits, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained his controversial decision to show restraint in the military response to the rocket attack from Gaza two weeks ago.
On Monday morning, the prime minister arrived at IDF induction center at Tel Hashomer to greet incoming Armored Corps recruits.
“We know that the supreme goal of the military is, first of all, to defend our state and if it is forced on us, to be victorious in war. You are joining generations of fighters who wrought miracles and wonders,” the prime minister told the recruits. “The entire world admires the IDF and does so, not just because of the technology and tools, but because of the personnel.”
“In the end, you are victorious not only by being defensive; you are victorious by being on the attack,” Netanyahu said.
“As Prime Minister what concerns me is the fact that I know there are no free wars and no free battles,” Netanyahu said in a thinly veiled reference to recent events. “There is always a cost and the cost is very dear and I always think about the cost. When war is inevitable, we will use all force and strength and do so in the best way possible.”
Netanyahu’s remarks seemed to be referring to the recent conflict with Gaza. Two weeks ago, a Kornet Hamas forces fired a Kornet anti-tank rocket at a bus on the Gaza border, seriously wounding one IDF soldier.
That began a two-day barrage of almost 500 rockets fired at Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza. One Israeli was killed and at least 19 injured.
The IDF retaliated with airstrikes that struck at least 160 military targets in Gaza. Many of the residents of the beleaguered communities bordering Gaza felt the response was inadequate and the took to the streets in protest, demanding the government provide a more permanent solution to the ongoing attacks.
The Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman agreed, leading him to resign, saying that a ceasefire was “capitulation to terror.” Minister of Education Naftali Bennett sought an appointment to the position vacated by Liberman, leading to a crisis that threatened Netanyahu’s slender coalition.
Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi detailed the human cost Netanyahu was referring to in an interview with IDF radio two days after the attack.
“At the end of [a Gaza] operation, with hundreds of funerals of young Israeli soldiers, we’d be back in the same place where we are now,” Hanegbi said.
Hanegbi was challenged by the interviewer who pointed to a rocket that struck a kindergarten that was, fortunately, empty at the time of the attack.
“The empty kindergarten — that’s always talked about. But those 500 coffins — of the Israeli youths that would come back if we sent them into [Gaza]…would not be empty,” Hanegbi responded.