‘This year we took fight to our enemies’: Bennett extols own security successes

June 8, 2022 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday to summarize his government’s first year in office, which he claimed was the best for Israel in years.

PM Bennett addresses the comittee. (Haim Zach/GPO)

He apparently used the platform for political self-promotion while criticizing his predecessor and possibly harming Israel’s security by openly taking responsibility for attacks against Iran and breaching a decades-long Israeli policy of secrecy and obscurity.

“The first year of my government was the quietest that residents of the south – Sderot, Ashkelon and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip – have experienced since the disengagement [in 2005]. This is a major achievement by our government,” he alleged.

In 2019, 1,291 rockets were fired from Gaza. In 2020, there were 176. In 2021, during which Operation Guardian of the Walls took place, there were 3,250 launches.

“In 2022, so far, there have been only six, with no injury or loss of life,” he pointed out.

“This is not a coincidence but is the result of a clear and determined policy – decisiveness for every balloon and a steadfast stance in the face of blackmail and violence,” he said.

He failed to point out that the deterrence against Hamas was achieved during Operation Guardian of the Walls when the IDF decimated its forces and infrastructure. Benjamin Netanyahu led the country during the operation.

He also concealed the fact that in 2019, when 1,291 rockets were fired from Gaza, he served as defense minister and was chiefly responsible for the country’s security.

However, he claimed that “this year we took the fight to our enemies. We do not allow them to get stronger and are taking action. We are always ready, and the security establishment is prepared for various scenarios.”

The Bennett government has not taken any significant action against Hamas’ massive military buildup in the Gaza Strip.

On the Iranian front, Bennett said that “the past year saw a turning point in the Israeli strategy vis-à-vis Iran. In the past year, the State of Israel has taken action against the head of the terrorist octopus and not just against the arms as was done in previous decades.”

“The days of immunity, in which Iran attacks Israel and spreads terrorism via its regional proxies but remains unscathed – are over. We are taking action, everywhere, at any time, and will continue to do so,” he declared.

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a prominent Iranian nuclear and weapons scientist and the mastermind behind Iran’s nuclear program, which was attributed to Israel, took place in November 2020, when Netanyahu was prime minister. Assassinations occurred before and after this.

As for Iran nuclear weapons program, he said that “in recent years, Iran has crossed a series of red lines, especially in enriching uranium at a level of 60% — without a response and the world goes on. Israel cannot – and will not – accept such a situation.”

Last Friday, he met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi and discussed this.

“He came for a snap visit and I clarified Israel’s position which is that we are acting, and will continue to reserve the freedom to take such action against the Iranian nuclear program as may be necessary, at any time, with or without an agreement. Nothing will tie our hands. We are not just saying this but are also upholding it,” he stated.

Israel expects that the IAEA Board of Governors will “send a clear warning signal to the regime in Iran and clarify to it that if it continues with its policy of defiance in the nuclear sphere, they will pay a painful price for it.”

He further lauded his foreign policy and the fight against crime.

What does the public think?

A poll published this week by the Viterbi Family Centre for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) shows that the last 12 months have brought a decline in the public’s optimism about national security.

In June 2021, 54% were optimistic about Israel’s security situation, as opposed to only 38% in April 2022, a year after Bennett entered office.

In the “report card” for the government, voters for the coalition parties, led by Bennett, lean slightly more toward positive assessments of Israel’s defence situation, with 35% saying the defense situation improved in the past year and 33% saying it has worsened, though they are almost equally split between three opinions – that the situation now is better than it was, worse than it was, or the same as it was. Among opposition voters, assessments clearly tend to the negative, with 74% saying it has worsened in the past year.

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