Security cabinet gives IDF go-ahead for military action

Arab League’s Amr Moussa will reportedly ask the UN to impose a Libya-style no-fly zone over Gaza.

April 11, 2011 01:02
Netanyahu, Barak inspect the Iron Dome system

Netanyahu Barak Iron Dome 311. (photo credit: Avi Ohayun/GPO)


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Even as the situation in the South seemed to de-escalate Sunday evening, the security cabinet earlier in the day empowered the IDF to “continue acting against terrorist elements in order to stop the firing on Israel and return quiet and routine to the south.”

The security cabinet met following the weekly cabinet meeting and was briefed on the situation in and around Gaza over the last few days.

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who went to visit an Iron Dome counterrocket defense system near Ashkelon after the security cabinet meeting, said it was Israel’s intent that quiet return to the South.
“I hope that is also Hamas’s intention. If that is its intent, then the quiet will return. If Hamas increases its attacks, it will feel the might of our response, which will be much, much harder.”

The IDF, Netanyahu said, dealt Hamas painful blows following its “criminal attacks” on Israel.

“There is no state that would be willing to absorb the intentional firing of an anti-tank missile on a school bus, to say nothing of criminal attacks on civilians. And Israel is certainly not willing to tolerate this,” he said.

Netanyahu praised the Iron Dome system, and those who developed it and operate it, saying it was a “very impressive technological feat.”

At the same time, he said, it was necessary to understand that it was impossible, even with all the technological developments, to protect every house and installation in the country.

“We can do a lot more, Netanyahu said, “but in the final analysis our true defense is a combination of defensive capabilities with deterrent offensive capabilities.”

In addition to empowering the IDF to do what it takes to bring down the attacks from Gaza, the security cabinet, according to a statement put out after the meeting, approved a large-scale national homeland security drill.

The message that the government was trying to send with this announcement, one government official said, was that it was taking all measures – offensive and defensive – to protect the country’s civilians.

Netanyahu visited Ashkelon along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak who said at the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in Gaza, and that it did not differentiate between Hamas’s political and military echelons – a reference to reports that Hamas’s political echelon was opposed to the attacks that were carried out by the group’s military arm.

He said that in recent days Israel has received messages from various political sources that Hamas was interested in a cease-fire. One of those messages was reportedly delivered by the UN’s Mideast envoy, Robert Serry.

A spokesman for Serry had “no comment” when asked about the matter.

One Israeli source said Serry’s involvement could potentially be problematic, since the UN is not supposed to have any formal contact with Hamas, and Serry – according to the source – apparently delivered a message from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

In a related development, AFP reported that Arab League head Amr Moussa, a leading presidential contender in Egypt’s scheduled elections in September, said his organization would ask the UN Security Council to impose a nofly zone over Gaza, similar to what it imposed on Libya last month.

While the Foreign Ministry had no formal response, waiting to see if this was serious or just rhetoric, one government official said it would be “interesting” to see whether the “Arab League proposal for a no-fly zone included the flying over the border of groundto- ground missiles, anti-tank missile and mortar shells, or whether it only applied to the Israeli response to the attacks from Gaza.”

In a similar vein, AFP reported that the Turkish government released a statement condemning Israel’s “excessive and disproportionate” strikes on Gaza.

“We strongly condemn the excessive and disproportionate reprisals of Israel that have injured and killed civilians in Gaza,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, urging Israel to employ good sense and moderation.

“The region cannot be allowed to enter into a new spiral of violence,” the statement said.

By contrast, there were no reports that the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement condemning the killing of dozens of protestors in Syria over the weekend.

In a related development, the National Security Council’s counter- terrorism bureau issued a statement Sunday warning that following the events in Gaza, “terrorist elements intend to perpetrate attacks against Israelis and Jews overseas ahead of – and during – the Pessah holiday, in the Mediterranean Sea basin and in the Far East.”

The bureau recommended that Israelis abroad vary their daily routines by changing regular itineraries, restaurants, tourist venues and hotels, and avoid places frequented by large numbers of Israelis.

The situation in Gaza is expected to be one of the topics that Netanyahu will discuss on Monday at a biannual luncheon with EU ambassadors stationed in Israel.

In addition, Netanyahu – just a few days before the Quartet is expected to meet in Berlin – is expected to urge the ambassadors against the EU supporting a proposal that the Quartet issue a statement calling for the parameters of a future Israeli-Palestinian agreement to be based on the 1967 lines, with agreed upon land swaps.

Netanyahu is expected to argue that moves such as these serve as a disincentive for negotiations, since they reinforce the Palestinian sense that they can get more from the international community by staying away from the table, than by restarting talks.

He is also likely to ask how Israel can be expected to agree where its eastern border will be without knowing anything about the nature of the peace that will be signed.

In addition, the prime minister is expected to address the reports that a large flotilla will set forth from Europe for Gaza next month, and call upon the ambassadors to urge their governments to do what they can to dissuade their nationals from taking part.

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