Benjamin Netanyahu ready to ‘conquer Gaza’ before election, ally says

The Israeli leader is facing criticism after rockets were fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv for the first time since 2014

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 10, 2019. Gali Tibbon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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An ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the leader is ready to launch a military offensive in Gaza before early elections “if need be” after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv last week, the first time since the 2014 war.

The comments of Yoav Kisch, a politician in Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, came as the Israeli leader faced criticism for the rocket fire from the coastal enclave.  He was accused by the Israeli opposition of failing to maintain Israeli deterrence against Palestinian rocket attacks.

The Israeli military said the rockets were “accidentally” fired by Hamas operatives, but it struck 100 targets in Gaza in response to the launch.

“In Hamas they are very, very concerned about an Israeli decision to strike them — the deterrence exists 100 percent,” Mr Kisch told an audience on Saturday.

“The prime minister is dealing with the security issue as if there are no elections, and if need be we’ll conquer Gaza before the elections” on April 9, he added.

But the Blue and White Party, which is leading Mr Netanyahu in the polls ahead of the vote, said that he had failed in his policies on Gaza.

Different Israeli factions tend to jostle over who is the toughest on security and Gaza is one of the foremost issues where Israeli politicians attempt to outdo each other.

“When people on the street tell me Bibi is a magician, I tell them he is a magician of one thing: He made Israel’s deterrence disappear,” Blue and White politician Meir Cohen said, using a nickname for Mr Netanyahu.

The centrist party’s leader Benny Gantz has claimed that he restored “quiet” to Israel’s border with Gaza after he oversaw the military operation that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead.

He has said that he was responsible for bombing Gaza back into the “stone age” in a bid to boost his security credentials in the eyes of Israeli voters who seek security.