Minister Orit Strock
Minister Orit StrockINN.

Settlements Minister Orit Strock spoke with Arutz Sheva - Israel National News about the prisoner exchange deal that is, apparently, in its last phases, and the accompanying combination of emotional scenes and the feeling that Hamas leadership is mocking Israel.

“We look at this incident as a matter of great national importance,” Strock commented. “On the one hand, it is gladdening and exciting to see each one of the hostages whose lives have been saved from the hell that is Gaza. We are happy that they are happy, and their happiness is everyone's happiness, but along with that we need to see the bigger picture, including the terrorists that have been released in complicated situations into Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, even into Jewish neighborhoods. These are complicated events, even during the ceasefire.”

Regarding the ceasefire, Strock added: “As everyone knows, I am among the greatest opponents of prisoner exchange deals. I have championed this cause throughout my public life as well as in the last few weeks leading up to the vote. I was among the first two criticize Ronen Tzur (head of the Hostage family forum), who is deliberately leading us into a second Shalit deal. I clarified why, in no circumstances, would it be right to make another deal with the devil that is Hamas, and especially not another prisoner exchange agreement. Despite this, we eventually all voted in favor. The decision was based on data presented to us in Cabinet meetings about which I am not allowed to go into detail, and understanding that at this particular time the deal may be bad, but it is a necessary evil to proceed from this stage to the next phase of the war. The overall historic goal at this point is the defeat and destruction of Hamas in Gaza, and removing any threat from Gaza to Israel.”

Strock is unconcerned is that such a mission will fail due to International pressure or commitments by Hamas. “This is Israel's destiny, nothing less. A country cannot allow itself to be nearby a government as cruel as Hamas. It is well known that our position is that we could not allow this in the first place, and for that reason we opposed Oslo and the Disengagement, but today everyone sees how this is fundamental to the very life of the state, and so we will do it despite even the greatest international pressure, because Israel depends on it.”

Strock pointed out that many members of the Cabinet and security experts have claimed the war is the most important since Israel was founded, and it must be treated as such.

Regarding the release of terrorists to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, Strock said she is working with security services to minimize the damage, and that any release of terrorists is indeed damaging, even if they will not return to terror themselves. The very act of releasing terrorists, Strock said, constitutes encouragement to terrorists and demonstrates that there is no cost for terrorism. “I'm well aware of the damage and have written about it. Nothing will appease me in this area, but in terms of national responsibility we are putting the war in Gaza first. That goal is above anything else and we must achieve it. With God's help, we will deal with the accompanying damage as well.”

Strock also commented on the criticism against her party’s handling of coalition funds, with the main complaint being that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich should have canceled all previous agreements and diverted the funds to the war effort, providing the necessary accompanying economic support.

“There is an evil and unintelligent campaign going on. The cost of a single day of war is 1.15 billion shekels. The budget we will pass this evening will add 30 billion shekels to cover both military and civilian war expenses, which are quite high. Accountants in the Finance Ministry said that we should find the money by tightening our belts in other places and not by adding more money to the economy. This is a basic error around which there was considerable disagreement. During the coronavirus crisis, when Yisrael Katz was Finance Minister, this approach was proven detrimental to the economy. When you are facing a challenge such as a war, you need to add as much money as possible to the economy.”

“Additionally, the budget around which this campaign is based is on the scale of a few hundred million shekel, which is approximately 1% of the total needs for the war. It is laughable and unintelligent to argue about a single percent of the budget, and to say that if 1% was not diverted to the war effort we cannot continue to fight. It is an insult to the intelligence of the public,” Strock said. She added that most of that 1% is being diverted to the war effort anyway, both in her Ministry and others.

Regarding her Ministry, she pointed out how 70% of the funds sent to the Settlements Department are being sent to towns in the Gaza region, along the northern border and in Judea and Samaria, as well as premilitary academies, national service organizations, and local activity groups that have all come together to improve national resilience in various ways. “This is part of the war effort,” she insisted, and noted how the criticism against it is damaging the towns that have been evacuated and the residents who are in need of such funding.

“There is a cynical, cruel, evil, political, and unintelligent campaign here that is doing nothing but slander and the results are that someone has created a website that does nothing but send thousands of hate messages to myself and other Ministers. I can handle such messages, but it is a shame that the public is busy with such a hateful campaign as opposed to seeking to improve national unity. It pains me to see innocent people believing the lies instead of uniting as is so important to do right now. For the sake of that unity we have sacrificed much, and agreed to creating a War Cabinet in which we have no representation, only for the sake of unity, so why would you now divide and inflict more pain and create hatred and enmity with no objective basis?”