Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with regional council heads from the south in Be'er Sheva on Thursday afternoon, two days after he sealed a ceasefire with Hamas that Gaza Belt regional heads slammed as being a form of surrender.
Attempting to respond to the criticism of abandoning the security in the south, Netanyahu stated "my obligation to the south is very deep, you know and see it. ...The region we live in is a raging and stormy one, and we are here in one boat with many others in the region and from the world."
Reiterating his message of a "great diplomatic and military blow" to Hamas from the night before, Netanyahu said "Hamas was dealt a very serious blow, and there is a military achievement of the highest order here, and well as a diplomatic achievement, because in the end they came and removed all their conditions."
According to Netanyahu "they acceded to the same Egyptian ceasefire proposal that we were ready to accept directly at the outset without time constraints and without any of the conditions that they set. They got to this point the hard way. They kept testing us and every time we struck them but the last time, given this accumulation of blows, they were persuaded."
The ceasefire deal had goods immediately begin to re-enter Gaza, although construction materials which are a security risk reportedly have yet to be brought in, despite Netanyahu agreeing to letting them in. An extension of Gaza's fishing zone back to its pre-war size was also granted, with larger demands such as a swap of terrorists for the bodies of two soldiers, as well as a sea and airport, to be held in a month.
Speaking about the breach of the last ceasefire by Hamas last Tuesday, Netanyahu said "they thought they could wear us down, and I told them they'll get a pummeling, and they got a pummeling and also the towers of terror fell, and also their senior commanders fell."
A poll held Wednesday for Channel 2 found that the majority of Israelis did not share Netanyahu's rosy appraisal of the operation; the poll found a full 59% of Israelis felt Israel did not win in Operation Protective Edge, and 54% opposed the ceasefire.
Netanyahu's approval rating also tanked according to the poll, which found his support to be at a mere 32%, with a full 59% saying they were not satisfied with him. A similar poll two days earlier found that only 38% of Israelis were satisfied with Netanyahu, as opposed to 55% four days prior to that point. At the start of the operation with the ground entry to Gaza, that figure was a whopping 82%.
Aid package for Gaza Belt residents
Turning to the local regional council heads, Netanyahu added "we stood together through all the days of the campaign and I very much appreciate your firmness and support," calling to continue "standing together" in rebuilding after the damage inflicted by Hamas's rocket war.
"On Sunday we will bring a very large aid package to Gaza Belt residents, and afterwards a general aid package for the whole south," said Netanyahu.
There has been talk of the aid package, which apparently is in addition to the 13.5 million shekel aid plan that was already approved for the long-term reconstruction of the Gaza Belt, as well as Tourism Minister Uzi Landau's request that the region be made VAT-free (an 18% discount on sales tax) for one year.
Netanyahu's "terror tower" remark referred to Gaza high-rises that the IAF brought down in the final week of the Gaza campaign.