This past Sunday evening, February 1, Sderot Media Center held a pre-election event for the English-speaking Jerusalem public on the issue of Sderot and the western Negev at the Israel Center. Political candidates from nine political parties of the 34 parties running for general election on February 10, gathered together to discuss how their respective parties would handle the continued Palestinian rocket fire terrorizing Sderot and the western Negev.
Noam Bedein, director of Sderot Media Center, opened the session with a SMC video on the protected playgrounds in Sderot,, and which had been distributed through the Israel Foreign Ministry to Israeli embassies throughout the world.
Bedein pointed out that after the second Hamas-Israel ceasefire, (June 19-December 19, 2008) Palestinian rockets were able to reach unforeseen distances to cities such as Gedera, Ashdod, and Beersheva. “As of today, we have one million Israelis living under Palestinian rocket threat,” said Bedein.
“I don’t have enough fingers to count the amount of times, missiles have exploded just a few meters from a kindergarten filled with children- why is it that we have to wait unit a kindergarten classroom struck by a direct hit in order to get the international community’s support and for Israel to do what’s right for her own people,” said Bedein.
Video: Meital Ohayon
Elli Wohlgelernter of IBA TV and Jay Bushinsky of WINS and KYW Radio moderated the panel and offered their own perspectives on Sderot, the western Negev and the Middle East conflict.
The central question of the evening addressed to the candidates was “what role will Sderot and the western Negev play in the 2009 elections?”
It was obvious to the panel of candidates that the situation in Sderot was nothing less than tragic and the rocket fire must stop. However, when it came to actually proposing a specific course of action in order to end the eight years of rocket fire, most of the candidates could do nothing more than recite the basic platforms of their parties.
Meretz representative, MK Tzivia Greenfield talked about ending occupation. Kadima MK, Shlomo Mula spoke about a two-state solution, but refused to conduct negotiations with Hamas. Dr. Noah Efron of Meimad/Green promised to provide more financial support to development cities like Sderot. Labor MK Colette Avital stated that there was no way to decapitate Hamas. John Daly of the HaYisraelim party, talked of his party’s platform to implement direct regional elections, and change the current system where the Israeli public at large does not elect a single parliament member directly.
Yisrael Beitainu’s Danny Hershtal was a little clearer regarding the rocket situation, stating that the IDF must control the Philadelphi Corridor once again in order to stop the smuggling of rockets into the Gaza Strip. The representatives from the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi also agreed that military action must be taken. Likud MK Yuli Edelstein spoke about the recent IDF operation in Gaza and its “unfortunate abrupt finish.”
This was the first pre-election event in English dedicated to the Sderot and western Negev issue. To see parts of the political discussions and learn more about each party’s standpoint, the event can be viewed on YouTube and internationally on Shalom TV.