Netanyahu Defends Gaza Cease-fire: Our Enemies Begged for It

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the cease-fire reached with Palestinians factions in Gaza, saying on Wednesday that "leadership is not doing the easy thing. Leadership is doing the right thing, even if it’s difficult."

Speaking at a memorial for David Ben-Gurion in the Negev, Netanyahu said that Hamas "begged for a cease-fire, and they know very well why." 

Netanyahu said he is attentive to protests of residents in Israel’s south, "but together with the security chiefs I see the general picture of Israel’s security." 

>> Analysis: Defense minister resigns, firing first salvo of elections. The timing couldn’t be worse for Netanyahu ■ Why Netanyahu will do almost anything for a Gaza cease-fire

In emergencies, Netanyahu added, "the public sometimes cannot be a part of decisive considerations. They must be hidden from our enemy." 

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President Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the event, calling for "blue skies of hope" for the residents of the south. 

Netanyahu’s remarks come as a political crisis is brewing in Israel over Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation. Lieberman also called for elections to be held as soon as possible, saying he hopes a date will be set by Sunday. Lieberman said all of the members of his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, will quit the coalition.

However, a senior source in Likud, Netanyahu’s party, said that elections are not necessarily the next step and added that Netanyahu will initially take on Lieberman’s portfolio. Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beiteinu, will retake his Knesset seat following his resignation, as provided for by law.

"I didn’t look for reasons to quit," Lieberman said in a press conference. "I tried to remain a loyal government member, in the cabinet, keep differences internal even at an electoral cost." The two turning points, he said, were the millions of dollars in cash delivered from Qatar to Gaza, and the cease-fire Israel reached with Hamas on Tuesday.

"There is no other definition, no other significance, but a capitulation to terror," he said, adding: "What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security."

"It is no secret that there were differences between the prime minister and I," Lieberman said. "I did not agree to allow entry of Qatari money [into Gaza], and I had to allow it only after the prime minister announced it." He said similar differences revolved around the evacuation of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.

Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza reached a cease-fire on Tuesday evening after three days of hostilities. Some 460 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel over the past few days, 100 of which were intercepted by the Israel Defense Forces. The military said it struck over 160 targets in Gaza.

Hundreds of Israelis took the streets in the southern town of Sderot to protest the cease-fire. Several demonstrators blocked the road at the entrance to the city and burned tires; policemen who were at the scene confronted some of them.

The hostilities started on Sunday, when an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit a bus in southern Israel, seriously wounding a 19-year-old soldier. It was the first time that Hamas fired a Kornet missile against an Israeli target since the 2014 war that Hamas and its allies in Gaza fought against Israel

On Monday, a 48-year-old Palestinian man was killed when a rocket fired from Gaza hit a building in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. Two women who were also in the building were seriously wounded. The Palestinians reported seven deaths as a result of Israel’s strikes on the Strip.