The Security Cabinet today approved attacks against Islamic Jihad and Hamas commanders responsible for the current Kassam escalation. There will be both air and ground operations, with attacks on arms supplies as well.
And, indeed, that is what we’re seeing: stepped up attacks. Among other actions today, a cell was hit in Gaza City, and at least six members of Hamas were killed. (Along with this, we can see the inevitably stepped up PR effort by Hamas, letting the world know that we are merciless in attacking civilians.)
In a statement made after the meeting, Olmert said that if the present level of attacks does not bring quiet (it won’t), the activity will be escalated further.
There are, however, no plans to halt smuggling at the Philadelphi Corridor. Instead this will be approached via diplomatic efforts. Please keep in mind how successful the diplomatic effort — known as Security Council Resolution 1701 — has been in stopping the smuggling of arms across the border from Syria to Hezbollah.
The Cabinet will be considering a request from the US that we permit either Jordan or Egypt to transfer weapons, ammunition and other military supplies to forces loyal to Abbas. This is something of a joke already, except that it’s a lethal. joke. The notion that the situation can be fixed by an infusion of additional weapons in an area already awash in weapons is close to ridiculous. But even more ridiculous is the hope, sustained in the face of the evidence to the contrary, that Fatah is going to take on Hamas sufficiently to defeat them.
Eleven more Kassams were launched at the western Negev today; since the barrage of rockets began last Tuesday, a total of 132 rockets have been launched. Sderot, of course, continues to bear the brunt of this, and while precise numbers are not available, reportedly some 4,000 – 8,000 Sderot residents have fled the city already.
The entire issue of the government’s failure to protect the home front in Sderot is getting hotter along with the broader situation. Considerable debate has ensued as to who is responsible for shelters, and the government has tried its utmost to cover itself and rationalize its failings. The issue is not money, but rather stagnation and politicking.
Today Defense Minister Peretz declared the area to be in a state of emergency, which means schools can be closed and other actions deemed appropriate can be taken. "Too little, too late," say the residents.
On Friday, Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak visited Sderot and volunteered to reinforce homes of residents at his own expense. To a person, government officials expressed outrage, declaring that this is not within his jurisdiction, but the government’s. As commentator Nahum Barnea put it, "Gaydamak is the cruel mirror through which the terrible weakness of the government is reflected." It has happened repeatedly now that the government responds in the face of Gaydamak’s offers.
The Central Committee of Labor was supposed to have made a decision on Friday with regard to remaining in the government. Chair Amir Peretz, however, requested that because of the current situation the decision be postponed. The issue will be raised again after the Labor primary on May 28, or the subsequent run-off on June 11.
Head of Yisrael Beitenu, Avigdor Lieberman , who serves as strategic affairs minister, today made a no-nonsense statement: “It’s time for tough action. I am not talking about a small operation, but a very specific one that will destroy Hamas completely and absolutely. One that will create a new situation on the ground. This is not an ultimatum, in that I am not demanding a certain time-frame – but the choice is clear, either Hamas is dismantled or this government will be dismantled.”
Does this mean he will leave the government if action isn’t taken on Hamas? Sounds like it, but my inside information is that it does not. Mr. Lieberman, once again, is mostly hot air. More’s the pity, because he might have the ability to take down the government.
Good old Shimon Peres. In Jordan today for a meeting of the World Economic Forum, he said that Israel was drafting an alternative to the proposed Arab League peace plan. Representatives of Olmert’s office are denying that a counterproposal is being drawn up. Head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said that a counteroffer would be considered if it were "reasonable." You can guess what that means.
Palestinian Saeb Erekat didn’t even go that far . "Mr. Peres," he said, "our negotiations (what negotiations?) have finished… Today, it’s time for decisions. Stop the bombardment of Gaza immediately and restart the truce between us immediately. We are willing to engage now in sustaining the cease-fire." What does one respond to such nonsense?