'I did not distinguish between Gaza-area, Tel Aviv residents'

Minister Hanegbi publishes statement apologizing if his remarks were misunderstood.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Tzahi Hanegbi
Tzahi Hanegbi
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Minister Tzachi Hanegbi apologized if his words earlier Thursday morning about recent Hamas attacks were misunderstood.

“I never distinguished between the lives of Gaza envelope residents and the lives of Tel residents, and if my words were understood like this, I am sorry,” Hanegbi said in a statement.

"The Israeli government is working to protect the residents of the Gaza area with all its might. IDF soldiers have been dealing for months with constant attacks along the fence, and billions are being invested in building an underground barrier that will prevent the infiltration of terrorist tunnels into communities.

"This morning's remarks were directed at the fact that a broad campaign in Gaza would inevitably lead to many casualties among our fighters, massive fire on Tel Aviv, severe economic damage, damage to the air traffic to Israel and implications for the economy and tourism. At the end of the campaign we would be liable to find ourselves at exactly the same point at which we find ourselves today, therefore we preferred to reach a long-term calm, insofar that is it possible, without escalation, for the benefit of the residents of the south and of the entire country.

"These words do not express any different attitude towards the residents of the south, courageous and dedicated people whose government is obligated to ensure their security as it is committed to all Israeli citizens," Hanegbi said.

The statements came following a storm over statements made by Hanegbi this morning, Thursday, to Galei Tzahal, in which he said the latest round of attacks on the Gaza envelope should be seen in "proportion."

"Hamas had a reason to attack," Hanegbi had said, referencing the gun battle between IDF forces and Hamas earlier this week during which 7 terrorists were eliminated.

"Hamas' revenge was minor. Overall, out of 470 rockets, it succeeded in killing one Palestinian."

"In the end, 500 kids would come back in coffins if they entered Gaza, so lets measure proportions.

"Overall, they responded in a measured fashion and purposely attacked the Gaza envelope because they have no interest in dragging us into a heavy military operation, and we don't have an interest either."

"What the residents of the south say is not negligible to me, but there is a difference from the economic capital of Israel and Ben-Gurion Airport with all the tremendous implications of this. When that [a broad military operation] happens, [you'll] ask me why we can't prevent Tel Aviv from being shut down," Hanegbi added.

Following a political storm accusing Hanegbi of distinguishing between the lives of Gaza-area and Tel Aviv residents, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement denouncing Hanegbi's remarks.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completely rejects the statement that there is a distinction between the envelope and Tel Aviv," the office said.

"Hamas' aggression is not 'minor' and there is no distinction between Hamas firing at southern communities and shooting at any other area in the State of Israel."