by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz Arutz Sheva September 26, 2006
Defense Minister Peretz admitted that the war in Lebanon strengthened Hizbullah, says MK Steinitz. Attempts at bombings by PA terrorists continue. As for Syria, Peretz foresees “costly concessions.”
Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz (Likud) claimed that Defense Minister Amir Peretz admitted that the recently fought war in Lebanon has strengthened the Hizbullah terrorist organization. Furthermore, Peretz reported that weapons and money continue to pour into Lebanon from Iran, earmarked for the Hizbullah.
Peretz made these admissions publicly for the first time, according to MK Steinitz, during a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
In reaction to questions by Knesset members regarding reports that Hizbullah supporters are approaching the border fence between Israel and Lebanon, where possible, and throwing rocks at IDF soldiers with impunity, Peretz said only that there are no armed Hizbullah terrorists on the border.
Israel sees the ceasefire agreement brokered by the United Nations in Lebanon – which calls for a withdrawal of Israeli troops, a deployment of UN peacekeepers and, ultimately, a deployment of Lebanese army forces in southern Lebanon – as “not yet completed,” Peretz said. Until the fulfillment of the ceasefire terms, Peretz added, Israeli jets will continue to fly in Lebanese airspace.
“Until rules governing eventualities that could occur along the border are formulated, such as rules of engagement, we will not leave southern Lebanon,” Peretz said. “There is continuing dialogue concerning what is permitted and what is forbidden. We want to establish new rules for the Blue Line.” The “Blue Line” refers to the international border recognized by the United Nations between Lebanon and Israel.
Nonetheless, the defense minister told the parliamentary committee that he hopes all Israeli troops would be withdrawn from Lebanon by the end of this week.
Palestinian Authority Terrorism Continues
On the Palestinian Authority front, Defense Minister Peretz informed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that 10 suicide bombings were thwarted in the last several weeks. The source of the attempted bombings was PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. He added that there are still warnings of more planned bombings by PA terrorists.
“We have reached the upper limit of operations in Gaza,” Defense Minister Peretz said. “The operations reach every source of threat.” Peretz said that the IDF is responding harshly to the ongoing rocket fire by PA terrorists, without “looking for each Kassam’s shipping invoice.” On Tuesday, a Kassam rocket struck Sderot, injuring a female soldier.
MK Esterina Tratman (Yisrael Beitenu) said Tuesday that she felt Israel could be doing more to secure the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held by elements from the Hamas terrorist organization, currently the governing body in the PA. Tratman suggested that Israel destroy PA infrastructure and “cut off all oxygen so that they cry ‘Mercy.’ Why should they have electricity if Shalit has not been returned? Where is our strength? Where is our logic?” she asked.
Syria: “Costly Concessions” Still to Come
Regarding Israel’s relationship with Syria and its leader Bashar Al-Assad, Defense Minister Peretz told the Knesset committee today, “Ultimately, there will be a diplomatic solution, with costly concessions, and we must not shut the door on any dialogue with Syria.”
In contrast, MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that Israel must take seriously Syrian President Assad’s declarations intimating a threat of war against Israel.
“Also before the Yom Kippur War declarations of this kind were made, which were not taken seriously,” said Shalom. “We must [pay attention] to everything so as to not be taken by surprise. I have asked the defense minister to give priority to evaluating our preparedness against the Syrian threat.”
Shalom added his own analysis: “Assad, who grew up with a certain narrative about the defensive response of Israel, is likely to go to war and we must be prepared.”
Reservists to Undergo Operational Training
Towards the conclusion of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Peretz detailed the plans and changes underway in the military. “We are beginning a program to upgrade the reservist and standing army emergency supply warehouses,” the defense minister said. “We are completing the plan of action. Already this year, the plan is going into effect.”
Peretz further explained that during 2007 and 2008, every reserve soldier will undergo operational training, according to as-yet undetermined parameters. To that end, Peretz said, 76% of the reservists will be called up over the course of the coming two years.