Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo, August 2011. Credit: Ariel Hermoni via Wikimedia Commons.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo, No. 2 on the Labor Party’s Knesset list, is praising Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a “genius move.”

Russo, who in 2005 served as commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ 162nd Armored Division, which took part in the evacuation of four settlements in the West Bank that were also uprooted as part of the disengagement plan, gave an interview to Channel 13 News over the weekend.

“There would have been major terrorist attacks and a lot more wounded if we hadn’t gotten out of there,” said Russo.

“We were on our way to something much worse. There are people who say, ‘Yes, but now we have missiles,’ because it’s difficult to compare to what would have happened if we hadn’t left Gaza. The current conflict with Gaza … isn’t being handled through thought,” he criticized.

“Them not having electricity, is that bringing down Hamas? No. It brings them running to the [border] fence. There is no leadership here. Everything is about putting out fires: responsive, survivalist. That isn’t how you run a state,” stated Russo.

Also this weekend, Russo angered residents of the Israeli communities along the Gaza border when one media outlet quoted him saying he was “surprised at the whining” about arson terrorism from Gaza in the form of explosives-laden balloons and kites.

In response to the outrage at his comments, Russo said on Saturday, “I value and admire the residents of Gaza-adjacent communities. I’ve been with them in very difficult times of daily attacks and terrorist attacks. When I was GOC Southern Command, I got to know the residents of the communities near the border fence, and how stalwart they are.

“Regarding the arson kite terrorism, what I meant was that the noise we make increases the enemy’s motivation and in turn the [amount of] arson kite terrorism. I’m sorry that people chose to take my remark out of context and turn it into a headline,” he said.

Meanwhile, it is still unclear whether Russo will be able to remain on the Labor list for the April 9 election after the chairman of the Central Election Committee, Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Hanan Melcer informed Russo that there were questions about his candidacy because an insufficient amount of time had passed between the time Russo retired from the military and his entry into politics.

In a letter, Melcer explained that the three-year cooling-off period required before former military personnel can run for the Knesset was not yet up.

In response, Russo posted a picture of his discharge paperwork to Twitter and wrote: “I’ve been out [of the army] for five years.”

Former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot stated in a letter he sent out over the weekend that Russo had completed his regular service in 2014 and had served as commander of the IDF’s Depth Corps as a reservist.