Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal responded to the barrage of rockets on his city Wednesday morning by announcing his resignation in a live prime-time interview on public Voice of Israel radio. "I don't want to be around when a rocket hits a kindergarten and kills 20 children," he said with great emotion. "I have been losing sleep over such a scenario for years."
The resignation was spurred on by the security cabinet's decision just beforehand not to carry out a major offensive in Gaza to halt the Kassam rockets fired by Hamas terrorists.
Voice of Israel quickly dialed Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai for his reaction to Moyal's dramatic announcement. Vilnai explained that Israel has fought and continues to fight against the terrorist threat from Gaza. "The army has greatly reduced the number of Kassams being fired from Gaza, though not enough," Vilnai said. Moyal, asked for his reaction to Vilnai's words, said, "I am no longer the mayor, so I need not respond."
Moyal has been the mayor of Sderot for just over nine years, and the city has been battered by an estimated 6,300 rockets over the past six years. The residents' ongoing suffering began when Sderot was first shelled with mortars by Arab terrorists from Gaza in April 2001, and the first Kassam rocket hit the city less than a year later.
A Sderot woman responded to Moyal's resignation by saying, "I congratulate him for his courage and for taking responsibility, and I hope that the nation's leaders will also take responsibility. If they don't know what to do, then let them give the reins over to those who do know how to give the proper response. Yesterday, we gave them a little blow [with a small-scale military offensive into Gaza - ed.], and they retaliated with a barrage of Kassams; we need to strike them so hard that they won't have the ability to retaliate against us."
"I call upon the Prime Minister," she continued, "to take responsibility for at least something in this country; he doesn't take responsibility for the Second Lebanon War, nor for education, nor for what is going on here on the border of Gaza."
Another woman said that Moyal should not resign: "If he quits, then why should we remain here in this city?"
MK Effie Eitam (National Union) called upon Ministers Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu - Israel Our Home) and Eli Yishai (Shas) to follow Mayor Moyal's example and lead their parties out of the government. "The government's helplessness is the result of the Annapolis conference and the negotiations with [Fatah chief] Mahmoud Abbas," Eitam said. "Moyal took a courageous and responsible step, but for Lieberman and Shas to ignore this option of resigning would be the epitome of obtuseness and detachment from the voters and from the residents of Sderot."
Tourism Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch of the Yisrael Beiteinu said his party was not yet ready to quit the government, and called upon Moyal to retract his resignation. "Now is not the time for a mayor to break down and quit," Aharonovitch said.