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Friday, June 30, 2006

Peretz is preventing the IDF from entering Northern Gaza

This evening, the IDF was supposed to enter Northern Gaza to deal with the Kassam shooters. Instead, it is sitting outside lobbing in shells. While they did get lucky and shells hit two power transformers, knocking out power which had been partially restored since Tuesday night, the 'Palestinians' have gotten off six more Kassams. Two of the Kassams landed south of Ashkelon near a 'sensitive installation' (probably our power plant); two landed in Sderot, one of which landed next to or in the municipal cemetery, and two more landed in Kibbutz Mevakiim. No one was hurt beyond people treated for shock.

The reason that tonight's entry was called off - ostensibly by Ehud Olmert after a meeting with Defense Minister Comrade Peretz - was to 'give diplomacy a chance.' Comrade Peretz claimed this afternoon - four days after wounded IDF Corporal Gidon Shalit was kidnapped - that we are on the verge of a major diplomatic breakthrough. Tonight, Debkafile is claiming that there is no diplomatic breakthrough and there never was one on the verge or otherwise.

Not only that, but the armored forces and tanks which rolled into southern Gaza Tuesday night have been stationary for 24 hours, only directing 'desultory artillery fire' at empty ground in the north.

According to Debka, Comrade Peretz is blocking a swift and expeditious offensive that has been urged by the IDF commanders (and even by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert!) to rescue Gilad Shalit and to take out the Kassam batteries in northern Gaza.

But the prime minister is hesitating to pull rank and give orders to the army over the defense minister’s head. Ariel Sharon would not have hesitated. I give him that much credit.

Peretz is clinging to a policy of “restraint and diplomacy,” despite what Debka calls, "the complete breakdown of mediated negotiations in the early hours of the abduction. " According to Debka, the prime minister’s office and general command report that no serious diplomatic bid to negotiate the soldier’s release has been floated for 48 hours. None of the intermediaries report progress, even the live wire, Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.

Debka claims that officials in the Prime Minister's office and top IDF commanders are furious with Comrade Peretz, and take strong exception to his assertion Thursday: “We stand at one of the most significant moments for setting new game rules between us and terrorist elements in the Palestinian Authority.” Terrorism is not a game, they say. Frustration with the defense minister was sensed in the speech delivered by the army chief Lt. Gen Dan Halutz at the passing out ceremony of fighter pilots. “Israeli citizens must never be hostages to rockets and the kidnappings of civilians and soldiers,” he said. “We dare not wait for casualties to justify a defensive operation. When someone wants to kill you, you must kill him first.” I could have written that last sentence!

So what gives? Why is Peretz doing this? Remember now that Comrade Peretz is not Shimon Peres. Peretz may be a thug but unlike Peres, he's not a pacifist, and I don't even think he buys into Peres' New Middle East fantasy. In fact, Peretz's home town is none other than Sderot, and we all know that Sderot has been the capital of the Kassam for the last ten months. So what is going on?

I think the answer may lie in a conversation I had two nights ago with another blogger that he reported on his blog but I had not reported until now on mine. Since I don't know how many of you read his blog, here's the link to the post, and here's what he said. As you read this, keep in mind that I called for Peretz to resign on Tuesday (that post is linked below):

I had a terrifying moment of deja vu this evening over events that took place on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War, while watching Channel 10's 17:00 news show on Tuesday.

Folks, the grave concern on the face of Channel 10's chief military affairs reporter, Alon Ben-David, was clear to see, as he aired several clips of Defense Minister Amir Peretz during recent press conferences on the fast-unfolding events in Gaza, repeatedly stumbling, stuttering, and pausing, glassy-eyed in mid-sentence, as he tried to address the gathered reporters.

Dismayed, I had to get up from the desk, walk away from the tv screen, as the hairs on my arms stood up, and I had this awful, bottom-dropping-out-of-the-elevator-car sense of, “oh no, we've been in this movie before...”

I hurriedly called Carl over at Israel Matzav, to get his take on it, (thanks, Carl) and then, checked two other reputable historial sources to make sure that I wasn't exaggerating to myself about the startling parallels:

Two (of many) pivotal scenes traumatically engraved in Israel's collective memory are of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol stumbling and stuttering on-camera during a press conference on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War, and of IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak [Rabin CiJ] suffering a brief, but incapacitating nervous breakdown during the same period.

As noted author Michael B. Oren writes in his highly regarded "Six Days of War June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East:"

"Israel's military command was alarmed. Waiting while Egypt's strike force was become stronger and stronger and letting Egypt strike first was militarily unsound. It was the Israeli government, under Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, that had the power to decide when to strike, and Eshkol, who was also defense minister, held back, hoping war could be avoided by talking to the Russians and to the Johnson administration in Washington. The pressure was unbearable for Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli army's chief of staff, who had not been able to sleep. And, around the 25th [of May 1967 CiJ], Rabin had a nervous breakdown - not unlike Moshe Dayan in the approach of war in 1973. Responsibility for Israel's survival was a heavy weight to bear."

(There's more to David's post by the way, but this is the part I wanted to point out to you. For the record, David and I were both kids living in America in 1967, and I think Michael Oren was as well).

Quite simply, I think Peretz is scared. He wasn't a career army officer. He has no idea how the IDF works. He's afraid of people demonstrating outside his house calling him a war criminal. And because he's afraid, he's preventing the IDF from making the types of decisive moves that need to be made to win this battle and he's putting Gilad Shalit's life (if he's still alive) and a whole bunch of other soldiers' lives (who are now sitting ducks in stationary tanks in Gaza at risk. It's real simple: Peretz must go.

One thing David doesn't mention above is that just before the Six Day War broke out, a new Defense Minister was appointed: Moshe Dayan. Surely in the current situation, we need a real military man in the Defense Ministry. Olmert has to find the guts to tell Peretz that Peretz needs to resign and we need a real defense minister. Quickly. Even if it costs him his current coalition.


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