Israel Resource Review 24th November, 2006


Commentary: A "Hudna" is not a Cease Fire
Arlene Kushner

A mere two days ago I wrote about the possibility of a major Israeli military incursion into Gaza, the only way to stop the Kassams. And now? Now there is talk of a "ceasefire."

But it would NOT be a "ceasefire," it would be a hudna -- a temporary cessation of hostilities that provides time for them to strengthen themselves (keep training their army, keep smuggling in more sophisticated weapons) with an eye to the day, as it suited them, when they would hit us again.

This "ceasefire" -- as envisioned by the Israeli gov't at any rate -- would mean that we would get back Shalit and release large numbers of Palestinian prisoners in return. The word is that Hamas has just upped its demand for prisoners: they now want 1,400 in return for Shalit. Why did they increase their demand? Because they see us as weak and too eager, and they believe they can get away with this.

The bad guys are winning.

Olmert is so eager to "produce": to show positive achievement in the face of all the current failure -- failure to get Shalit back and failure to stop the rockets -- that he is willing to strike a deal that shows a SEMBLANCE of success, but on the backs of our children and our future. This is unconscionable, but then, I haven't observed that Olmert has a large conscience.


The news today, along with this, carries an expression of concern by the Israeli Air Force regarding the acquisition by terrorists groups in Gaza of anti-aircraft missiles that might be able to shoot down a helicopter. Rest assured, if we call a "ceasefire" now, they will keep right on bringing in that sophisticated equipment. Rest assured, when the inevitable day comes that we end up fighting those forces, it will be worse for the IAF than it would be now.

How incredibly shortsighted a "ceasefire" would be.


Hamas is putting out feelers with regard to the hudna now. And why do you suppose this is? Because they would like time to regroup, they are hurting. This is precisely the time to come on strong.

If we stop our attacks now, instead of going in full strength, they will crow that we are weak and they will be motivated (during the lull we will be providing) to increase their potential to do us damage. You can count on it.

If we release 1,400 prisoners, while we are celebrating the release of Shalit some solid percentage of that 1,400 will be rejoining the ranks of terrorists eager to have a go at us. (The business of releasing prisoners "without blood on their hands" is a crock: sometimes they get caught before they have blood on their hands, sometimes they are involved in peripheral actions. Most would be pleased to help do us in.) Our innocents will pay a price down the road, a price paid in life and injury, for the "victory" of getting Shalit back this way.

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Nahum Barnea
Yediot Ahronot

These days, Amir Peretz is a sad man. Beaten. Perhaps I am misreading him, but it seems to me that the glint in his eye has gone out. Too many problems have overtaken him at once: The war in Lebanon, the Kassam rockets in Sderot, his complete collapse in the polls, the supporters who have abandoned him and the unpopular frontal clash with the prime minister. In such situations there is usually some shred of hope, a piece of news that is awaited, a white sail on the horizon. A right wing defense minister can launch a peace initiative or the opposite, he can hope that a brilliant military operation will extricate him from the mud. What miracle can Amir Peretz look forward to?

This week, a journalist told him the story about the company sergeant major who told his soldiers a joke. Everyone laughed except one. Why aren't you laughing, they asked the soldier. Because I am getting out of the army tomorrow, he replied. Peretz laughed wholeheartedly. You can convince yourself that you are being released tomorrow, and do anything you like, said the journalist. Peretz became serious. He has no intention of being released.

He would not admit it, but he erred when he accepted the defense portfolio, and erred again when he adamantly refused to take a civilian portfolio after the war-an expanded civilian portfolio or a large project of national rehabilitation. Now, with three percent in the polls, anything he does will generate anger against him.

He believes that he is the right person to serve as defense minister today. The appointment of a military man would give people the illusion that the appointment in and of itself would correct what is wrong. That it is time to go on vacation. But as long as he is at the helm, we can be certain that the changes will be made. After all, everyone is watching him very closely. The only way for him to rehabilitate himself is to do, do, do, day and night. The problem is that in Israel, everyone is impatient. They expect reservists who haven't trained for six years to be prepared within a month.

The clash with Olmert was not planned. In the past, the defense minister's partner on the Palestinian side was their interior minister. After the Hamas government was formed, this option disappeared. Abu Mazen was the only one left. When Peretz received a message in the middle of last Sunday's cabinet meeting that Abu Mazen was looking for him, he thought that the topic was a delegation of rabbis headed by Rabbi Froman, which wished to meet with Abu Mazen in Gaza. Peretz refused to let them enter, out of concern for their safety.

Abu Mazen, however, was not interested in the rabbis. He wanted to talk about the cease-fire. Before he reaches an agreement with Hamas, he wants to make sure that Israel will honor the calm. There is the issue of the tunnels, Peretz told him. If the smuggling continues, we will not be able to refrain from acting against the tunnels.

He did not report to Olmert about the conversation with Abu Mazen until after the fact. Olmert did not take well to the report. He accused Ephraim Sneh of negotiating with the Palestinians. Only I will speak with Abu Mazen, he said.

Olmert was offended. The quiet talks that his people are conducting with Abu Mazen, usually by Turbowicz and Turjeman with Erekat and Husseini, are very sensitive. On second thought, Peretz was also offended. How could Olmert conceal talks on a cease-fire from the defense minister. Why were military officers not included in the discussions.

In ordinary periods, political profit could be derived from such a crisis. Not now. The crisis only heightens the sense that the political leadership is unable to show results. People are being killed, but they are persisting in fighting over matters of ego.

On Friday, Peretz visited Michael Slotker, the husband of Faina Slotker, who was killed last week in Sderot. Slotker, an engineer by profession, cried when he spoke about his wife, but was angry when he talked about the Wisconsin Program. "The Wisconsin took our dignity away, from my wife and myself," he said.

The Sabbath had almost begun, but Peretz found it difficult to leave. If not because of the Kassam rockets-because of Wisconsin.

Wakes up with the Kassam

Every night, Amir Peretz returns to his home in Sderot. Sometimes there is a small demonstration of residents waiting near his house, demanding his resignation. Sometimes it is quiet. In the morning, he wakes up with the Kassam rockets.

He would always return home at night, when he was in the Histadrut as well. But now his night's sleep in Sderot bears symbolic significance: If he stays away, people will say that he has abandoned [the city]. A large portion of the city's residents find rest in Eilat or other places, but the defense minister is unable to do so, for fear of what people will say. He is a hostage. He will not be forgiven even a single night in Tel Aviv.

When the GSS wanted to fortify the roof of Peretz's house, he refused. He was unable to refuse protective measures against direct fire. People in Sderot saw the activity, and immediately some people got up and said: Why is he being protected and not us.

We expect our public officials to both be a symbol and to work. Even when we humiliate them in both contexts, we insist on expecting.

There is a fine interplay between the symbol and the work. No disaster would be caused if Peretz were to sleep in Tel Aviv every once in a while. Even if someone were to say something, it is doubtful whether this would be his worst problem.

On the other hand, it is hard to be impressed by Ehud Olmert when he condemns the abandonment of Sderot from his well-guarded office in Jerusalem. There are reprimands that cannot be issued from afar. He would actually like to travel to Sderot, but his bodyguards object. He could be hit by a Kassam rocket.

The bodyguards' job is to protect the prime minister against anyone who might harm him because of his position. An attack on the prime minister by a Jewish or Arab terrorist is a traumatic blow to the state and society. It must not happen again.

But regarding the Kassams, the prime minister is like any other citizen. He is not entitled to special protection. He is no different than Amir Peretz, or Yuli Tamir who visited Sderot this week, or many others. The only thing that needs to be done is to keep the date of the visit a secret, in order to prevent deliberate fire.

Perhaps it is time to return to the days when Israel's prime minister felt that it was his duty to come to any spot where a terror attack had taken place. This was the Israeli way of showing solidarity, taking responsibility, setting priorities. Perhaps it is time to return to the days when there were fewer bodyguards, and more security. [.]

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Israel's Failing Strategy
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

When PM Olmert, DM Peretz and COS Halutz snap back at their critics that the IDF is already doing everything it can to stop the Qassams from the Gaza Strip, there are some huge caveats attached to the claim.

The IDF's mission includes destroying weapons stores, but if the weapons are stored in a residential area, the IDF gives the Palestinians thirty minutes warning before attacking the location to either relocate the weapons or bring in even more human shields to protect it from attack.

Weapons stored in "sensitive" locations such as mosques are off limits to IDF operations and Palestinian combatants can shield themselves with cooperative civilians.

No operation within the Gaza Strip can be open ended - even in the Philadelphi Corridor that separates between Egyptian Sinai and Gaza.

And so, having set rules that make it next to impossible to succeed, it is hardly surprising that this team is so keen on finding a way to make a deal with the Palestinians according to which the various Palestinian groups can continue smuggling in weapons and manufacturing ever more effective Qassam rockets as long as they don't shoot.

For a while.

Until they decide to start shooting again.

When they can shoot even more powerful and more numerous rockets prepared during the Israeli hiatus in security operations.

If the above rules reflect some notion of morality, then it's a sick one which gives preference to the lives of Palestinian human shields over those of Israeli victims.

If these rules are for public relations, they indicate a profound misunderstanding of how the world sees the story.

The world doesn't praise Israel for respecting human shields - they either don't believe it or they think Israel is stupid. And there is no reward for stupidity.

And the world certainly isn't impressed by the restraint Israel has shown so far. That's because even restrained operations can make a headline or get a few seconds on the evening news on a slow news day.

The truth is that the PR costs of a massive brutally effective operation are barely more than the costs of a mediocre one.

That's because you get almost the same coverage for an operation taking place simultaneously in ten locations as in only one. The same goes for casualties.

The Olmert-Peretz-Halutz approach is wrong. Dead wrong.

The last thing Israel can afford to do today is continue policies that could ultimately corner it into accepting a timeout for a Palestinians arms build-up.

For if Israel accepts such a timeout, the Jewish State may find itself in the same situation as the proverbial frog in a pot of water being slowly heated to a boil.

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Sderot; A Town Under Siege
Joel Mowbray
Special to The Washington Times: November 24, 2006

The international outrage machine is ginned up again, and all but seven members of the U.N. General Assembly recently voted to condemn Israel for its military incursion into Gaza. The buzzword, recycled from Israel's summer war with Hezbollah is "overreaction".

To what is Israel "overreacting?" Hamas, using the tactic that Hezbollah licensed from it this summer, is indiscriminately launching rockets into civilian areas, hoping to kill as many innocents as possible.

Israel's current military action is far from an overreaction. It is, in fact, a delayed reaction. Rockets have been raining down in southern Israel for years now, and only this summer did the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) finally execute a sustained response.

For more than five years, the residents of Sderot, a small development town of 26,000 in the Negev desert near the Gaza border, have been subjected to a constant barrage of Qassam rockets fired by Hamas, or the democratically elected government of the Palestinians. More than 3,000 rockets have hit Sderot and the roughly 45 smaller communities in the area.

Though former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his successor, Ehud Olmert, both had promised a strong response to attacks against civilians launched from Gaza, Hamas had suffered little more than the occasional military strike against its terrorists following a particularly "successful" Qassam strike. (One such response came after a Qassam exploded meters from the personal residence of Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who lives in Sderot.)

The military waited until late this June to attack Hamas aggressively and provide the response promised by both Mr. Sharon and Mr. Olmert. But that was actually triggered by the kidnapping of 19-year-old soldier Gilad Shalit " even though rocket firings into Sderot had become unrelenting several weeks earlier.

While the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah failed to achieve any of its stated objectives, the military scored significant success with its actions in Gaza this summer. But shortly after the rate of rocket attacks fell to just a few per week, military activities largely ceased. Not surprisingly, Hamas redoubled its efforts, and Qassam rockets again became a daily reality in Sderot and surrounding communities.

Perhaps to divert attention from its failure to defeat Hezbollah this summer, Israel seems determined to degrade Hamas' ability to launch rockets at innocent civilians. But that apparent determination could crumble in the face of mounting international outcry. Never mind that the democratically elected government of the Palestinians is able to target civilians with impunity.

As bad as things are in Sderot right now " one woman was killed this month, and another person is near death as of this writing " none of this is new.

To appreciate just how much a daily fact of life Qassams have become, Sderot's school playground has four above-ground, concrete bomb shelters. The rectangular tunnels sit on each corner of the relatively small playground. So many are needed so close together because there is typically just 10-15 seconds warning, if any, before a Qassam hits.

Qassams have hit all around the school. Remnants of several rockets can be seen in the street in front of it. Shrapnel is lodged in the sidewalk railing meters from the playground. Shrapnel is even on the playground itself.

Not surprisingly, the residents of Sderot are both bitter and angry. Even with the recent military actions, they feel forgotten. Actually, they have been forgotten.

This June, Vice Premier and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres brushed off mounting concern about a surge in attacks with the quip, "Qassams shmassams." Echoing that theme, an IDF spokesman described Qassam rockets to this columnist in July as "dumb firecrackers."

Thing is, these "dumb firecrackers" kill people. Here is the Associated Press account of one Qassam attack in September 2004:

"The blast blew out the windows of a house, showered a minibus with shrapnel and killed two children of Ethiopian descent. Dorit Benesay, 2, and Yuval Abeva, 4, were playing under an olive tree outside Yuval's grandmother's house when the rocket struck, emergency workers and neighbors said.

" 'After the rocket fell, a man, maybe 20 years old, took the boy in his arms. He was in shock. He ran with the boy, he didn't know what to do,' said Zina Shurov, 48, a neighbor. 'I saw the boy, he had no legs.' "

Hamas has no plans to stop voluntarily, and the international outrage machine won't ask it to. The Islamic terrorists are merely fulfilling a promise made this June: "We have decided to turn Sderot into a ghost town. We won't stop firing the rockets until they all leave."

Hope somehow remains alive in Sderot. Rabbi David Fendel believes that the simple act of staying put is his best way to fight terrorism. In fact, he's even doing more. With a new religious school and community center under construction, Rabbi Fendel is working to make Sderot stronger.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has visited Sderot and calls Rabbi Fendel "a real hero in the war on terror." He explains, "Rabbi Fendel is not only helping Sderot, but he has taken the kind of firm stand that the Israeli government needs to in order to defeat the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah."

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Of clowns and Kassams

It's Thursday morning, and we're awakened at about the same hour we usually are this week by the sound of sirens, seemingly set to coincide with the time when all the children of Sderot are going to school, kindergarten or nursery school throughout the town.

After taking cover in our security room, thinking all the time of the 1,000 families in this city who don't have one, I leave home with my sister, Rivka, and her cousin, Hadassah, who are dressed as clowns. They are trained clown therapists off to meet others from around the country who have volunteered to perform in front of children in Sderot's nursery schools.

We arrive at the first one a little after 8:30 a.m. All the children are already sitting in their seats, thinking that at this very time Wednesday a few rockets fell so close to this place, and killed Yaakov Yaakobov, who was buried Wednesday afternoon . . .

While the "clowns" perform, with balloons, tricks and a man playing a guitar, we speak with the teachers.

One of them, Debbie, details how they had just managed to go to their security room with 15 children aged 3-5, in 15 seconds. She describes how they walk quickly, in a way which has already become routine, stay quiet and wait to hear the explosion of the rocket. The children, she says, have already gotten used to this somehow.

Debbie mentions that the children have begun to take yoga classes, trying to ease the unnatural reality of not being able to play outside in the nursery school playground. No one is taking chances these days in Sderot.

When they go home, Debbie says she reminds the children not to go to any playground and to run home as fast as they can. The children's parents do not have private cars to pick up their kids, and we can see them trotting alongside their youngsters to get them home as fast as possible. It's surreal to see the empty playground, built recently to improve the quality of life in Sderot. Debbie remarks that the last time the children were allowed in the playground was a month ago . . .

On Fridays, the children have a "wishing day," where they can ask for anything, Debbie explains. The only wish, she says, is for the Arabs to stop firing missiles at us . . .

We listen to the radio as Debby speaks, and hear a calm announcer say that the morning's missile has "only hit an empty lot, and that some people were treated for shock" before then going on to the sports news. It would seem that those working at Israel Radio, 55 minutes from here, do not understand what a trauma victim is.

When we arrive at the next nursery school, Ofra the teacher is talking about snails, which turn up in the winter, and asks the children: "Why does the snail have a shell?" The children answer in chorus: "So it can be protected from the Kassams."

Ofra mentions that the children have building and puzzle pieces made from Kassam rockets, as if they were a new form of Lego, and that they all say that they want to be soldiers when they grow up, to "fight those Arabs who fire Kassams on us." She describes how she gets phone calls several times a day from her son in a paratrooper unit, asking if she's safe.

A psychologist at the kindergarten remarks that it is a good sign that the children can express themselves in drawings, building, and random chit-chat about where the Kassam fell yesterday, or about how loud the explosion was.

What about the ones who are just sitting in the side of the small classroom, not even responding to the crazy clowns going wild, we wonder. Maybe it's because they understand that tomorrow a rocket is going to fall, and maybe it will fall close to them. The kindergarten security guard tells us that the first words out of the mouth of her baby cousin were "Shahar Adom" (the Red Dawn alarm code), along with the more traditional Abba and Ima.

At the Yasmin nursery school, you can actually see a Kassam hole on the road that was covered up only a few days ago. This is the nursery school where a Kassam missile scored a direct hit in June 2004, killing two people - Afik Zehavi, 4, from that nursery school and Mordechai Yossophov, 49.

Ofra tells me that when she and her family visited Dimona and Beersheba, her first grader Elad looked up in the sky for something. She asked him: "What are you looking for"? Little Elad answered: "There is no protection on the schools here, or protected area we can run to when the siren goes off." He also wondered, "Why are the Arabs bombing only in Sderot and not in Beersheba?" Her story left us to wonder about such a kid, who doesn't know any other reality than this one, which has existed for six years now.

Dalia Yosef, head of a project that deals with the Community Protection Services and who works with children aged 2-4, offers research data showing that 50% of these children suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder which will be with them for many years to come, and that only half of them have been treated.

Dalia describes stories of teachers - not the children - breaking down, and not knowing what to do. They are simply not trained and inexperienced and have no one to supervise them. When the siren goes off, the teachers have to handle the hysterical children, while many times, the teachers themselves have children in different kindergartens and schools, many of which are unprotected. Out of over 100 kindergartens in the western Negev, indeed, only half are protected . . .

Questions arise, like how do you deal with four-year-olds who witnessed Fatima Slutsker being blown to bits, or Maor Peretz losing both his legs? What do you do when the siren goes off and the children are getting on the bus? Do you run toward the bus, get all the children out, and run back to the shelter? All in 15 seconds?

Before the clowns' performance, children from another nursery school right next door come in. The first thing the teacher says is where to go when the siren goes off, because not everyone is going to fit into the small protected room, so they have to split into groups. Later on, teacher's assistant Ilanit tells me that she was concerned that the kids were sitting too close together, not keeping the path clear to the protected room. The daily routine revolves around the Kassam and when\where it's going to hit.

Five minutes after we leave the last nursery school, the siren goes off and three explosions are heard. One seems to have been very close by. We think about what the children and teachers were going through at that moment. My training as a forward observer in an artillery unit on the Lebanese border did not prepare me for this.

This article can also be read at

* Noam Bedein, 24, works with the new Sderot Information Center for the Western Negev Ltd, and can be reached at, or 03-636 4017, cell. 0545 598 977

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