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Defense Minister Amir Peretz passed his first baptism of fire on his own

How has Israels new defense minister Amir Peretz handled the current escalation in Palestinian rocketing in the Gaza Strip? Peretz, the dovish Labor Party leader, makes his home in Sderot, that has been the main target of the Qassams launched just a few miles away. The tragic killing of seven Palestinian family members on the Gaza beach has also focused attention on how Israel should cope with indiscriminate Palestinian rocketing of Israeli civilians.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

While Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was visiting Europe, Defense Minister Amir Peretz passed his first baptism of fire on his own. The former trade union boss proved he's his own man' by rejecting an IDF proposal to launch a major operation to quell the rocketing from Gaza. He proved to be cool under fire in his handling of the Gaza family tragedy. At the same time, the dovish Labor party leader showed he's no softy by warning Hamas members involved in terrorism that they would be targeted by Israel even if they hold official positions in the Palestinian government. As Peretz put it: It doesn't give them an insurance policy!' In his briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, friend and rival agreed that Peretz impressed as a quick study' with a grasp of the relevant material. Aside from the national interest, the country will be watching his performance to see if he has what it takes to become a future prime minister.

Halutz and Peretz

How should a democratic state react to rocket attacks on its civilians from territory that it recently evacuated? This has been a question debated in Israel ever since last summer's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. It hit a fever pitch with the killing of seven members of the Ralia family on the Gaza beach last Friday. The IDF employs pinpoint attacks on terrorists by rockets fired from helicopter gun ships as well artillery and tank fire in the areas known to be used as launch site for the rockets. This in contrast to the indiscriminate rocketing by the Palestinians to hit as many Israeli civilians as possible. When they do, there are celebrations in the streets. While Israel agonizes over the possibility that innocent Palestinians may have been killed or wounded in legitimate acts of self-defense. An immediate inquiry is conducted to determine what happened. In this case, the Israeli inquiry found beyond a shadow of doubt' that a stray IDF shell was not responsible. That it was more likely that Palestinian explosives, possibly planted to hit Israeli commandos - the beach area is used to fire rockets at the Israeli town of Ashqelon. Why was the IDF so confident? IDF intelligence apparently has indisputable evidence that it is not willing to disclose in order to protect the source. In another case, terrorists and civilians were killed when helicopters fired two rockets at a van carrying a more deadly GRAD rocket on its way to being launched apparently at Ashqelon. As a rule, the IAF fires two rockets, one after the other, in case one misfires. As for the terrorists they operate deliberately behind civilians in populated areas in this case in the town of Gaza. What happened was that when the first Israeli missile was fired there were no Palestinian civilians near the van; within one minute the second missile was also launched but in that time several Palestinians had rushed to the van and were also hit. In an unusual video clip, immediately after the air strike a terrorist was caught lugging one of his missiles destined for Israel.

David Essing

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