This is exactly what the supposed hardliners said would result from Israel following international advice and trying to take the moral highroad.
This is the clearest evidence I’ve ever seen in favor of my view that the US sees the Jewish State as its bitch in the Middle East.
With “friends” like this, who needs enemies?
Geostrategy-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, July 12, 2006
Israel’s new defense minister, Amir Peretz, has no experience in either the
military or in government. But he has been thrown into a crisis that could
lead to war in the Middle East.
Peretz, a longtime peace activist, has been struggling to contain a growing
Palestinian threat that includes daily missile salvos against the Jewish
state from the Gaza Strip and the abduction of Israeli civilians and
soldiers. A career union activist, Peretz is caught in a vise of military
commanders, warning that the nation’s deterrence is being eroded, and the
United States and the international community, seeking Israeli restraint.
“We have no intention to recapture the Gaza Strip or control the Palestinian
population,” Peretz said. “We do not want our soldiers running through the
alleys of refugee camps between Gaza City and Rafah.”
A key question is whether Peretz will agree to a massive ground assault on
the Gaza Strip to destroy missile production facilities, insurgency
strongholds and the Hamas government. Or, will the military wait for
international efforts to free an Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas.
Perez, born in Morocco, served his country as a paratrooper and rose to the
rank of captain. He was severely injured in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and
spent a year in convalescence. Still in a wheelchair, he became a farmer and
in 1983 was elected mayor of the southern town of Sderot.
For the past five years, Peretz stood by as Sderot came under constant
Palestinian missile strikes. Since his appointment to defense minister in
March, Peretz’s home in Sderot has been the prime target of Hamas and other
Peretz made his reputation as chairman of Israel’s Histadrut labor union. As
national union chief, Peretz was quick to paralyze the country with frequent
strikes and labor slowdowns to pressure the government over issues involving
economic policy and trade union affairs.
As defense minister, however, Peretz has imposed a policy of restraint on
the military. As a result, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has launched
an offensive against Israel that includes daily Kassam-class missile salvos
against such cities as Ashkelon and Sderot.
The missile strikes have been increasingly effective, with some crashing
through the homes of Peretz’s neighbors in Sderot. Peretz has hesitated in
approving the military’s plans for a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza
Strip in fear of U.S. reaction and the prospect that Israel would return to
the territory it evacuated in 2005.
“I wish 10 months ago they [the Palestinians] had hit a strategic facility
in Ashkelon,” said [Res.] Maj. Gen. Yom Tov Samia, former head of the
military’s Southern Command. “Then we would have taken action and we would
not be in this mess today.”
As a result, Israel’s military has grown demoralized and is targeting empty
buildings, including the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Military
commanders are continually warned that they could be held personally
responsible for attacks in which Palestinian civilians are killed.
“If we know that [the terrorist] is holding his son’s hand, we do not fire,”
Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkeidy said. “Even if the
terrorist is in the midst of firing a Kassam, and the Kassam is aimed to
kill, we do not fire.”
Peretz has received little support from his superior, Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert. Olmert, who also has no defense or military experience, has sought
to avoid direct responsibility for the crisis with the PA. The two men have
poor relations and both have turned to the United States for advice and
Officials said President Bush has ordered Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice to handle the Israeli crisis. Rice has been speaking to Peretz and
Olmert nearly every day since Hamas attacked an Israeli military post and
abducted a corporal on June 25.
So far, Rice has stressed that Israel must limit any military operation in
the Gaza Strip. Officials said Rice has warned Israel against attacks that
could harm Palestinian civilians or PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas or damage
infrastructure. Rice also insisted that Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip
be reopened to allow delivery of food, medicine and other supplies.
On June 30, Bush downgraded, and then reinstated, the status of the
Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in the United States. The
president agreed that the PLO and Palestinian Authority failed to honor its
peace commitments and, under U.S. law, should be penalized. But he then
immediately exercised a waiver to avoid sanctions.
The sanctions under the 2003 law include denial of visas to PLO and
Palestinian Authority officials, designation of either group as a terrorist
organization and revoking U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Bush’s
waiver is intended to last for six months.
Peretz has followed Rice’s advice and is negotiating with Hamas via Egypt.
Peretz has agreed to free an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners and
has pledged not to strike the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of the
Israeli soldier, sources said.
Western diplomatic sources said Rice’s heavy involvement marked an
increasing concern in the Bush administration that Israel cannot be relied
upon to make strategic decisions against terrorism.
The source said that Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld and other senior officials hold such an assessment.
As a result, the sources said, Washington would best serve Israel and U.S.
interests in the region by urging restraint. This is particularly vital amid
the Western showdown with Iran over its nuclear program.
“This [Israeli] government is very unstable and what the United States does
not want is to encourage an inexperienced and hesitant leadership to launch
a strategic attack in the Middle East,” a Western diplomat said.
“For quite a while, Washington has been dealing with cases where Israel
began an operation and then turned to the United States to clean up the
mess,” the diplomat said.