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Termed a "child killer" and "scoundrel" by Arab MKs during an appearance at an emergency Knesset session Monday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel must not agree to an immediate cease-fire, but rather expand and strengthen its attacks on Hizbullah.
Peretz's speech was interrupted dozens of times, and three Arab MKs - Ibrahim Sarsour and Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab list) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) - were eventually ejected from the session by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. Sarsour called Peretz a murderer and a child killer. Zahalka said he was a liar and a warmonger.
Itzik said she was giving the three the "gift" of throwing them out, since they had plainly sought to cause a stir with their own constituency. She threatened to eject Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List) as well, but calmed him down after reminding him that he is a deputy Knesset speaker and that it would be undignified for him to find himself thrown out.
Aside from the heckling by members of Arab parties, however, Peretz's speech was widely echoed by MKs across the political spectrum, including opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who added that Hizbullah posed a strategic threat, and that Israel therefore required a strategic victory.
In the wake of the attack on Kafr Kana, Peretz insisted that the IDF had not deliberately targeted civilians.
"There was no, and there will be no, Israeli commander who will issue an order to hurt uninvolved civilians," said Peretz.
He said that Israel was fighting "for the home" and that Hizbullah, a terror group with a murderous ideology, was the proxy force of the extremist regime in Iran. "We didn't choose the military option," Peretz stressed, adding that Israel, by pulling back to the border lines, had demonstrated that it had no territorial ambitions in either Lebanon or Gaza.
But the terrorists "never rested,' he said, and Israel could not afford to "shut our eyes" to the threat.
Peretz praised soldiers who had come to hear the session, and their colleagues on the front, for their valor in the "fight for the state of Israel." A new generation was displaying "courage, sacrifice, camaraderie" and a willingness to do everything for Israel. "We are proud of you. You are doing an exceptional job," he said.
Netanyahu, backing the government's declared goals in the conflict, noted: "The journey of war is like any other journey. It starts easily but midway there's a difficult junction where we must decide whether we continue to climb the mountain or stop. I call on the government: Don't stop midway. Complete the job."
Netanyahu began his speech by also thanking the IDF for its work, saying first he was doing so in the name "of all the MKs." But he was quickly forced to reword his statement to "in the name of most of the MKs," as Arab Knesset members interrupted his speech.
Netanyahu recounted that during World War II, Britain's Royal Air Force intended to bomb the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, but missed and hit a children's hospital nearby, killing 83 Danish children.
"This is a tragedy of war, but it happens," said Netanyahu. "Unlike the other side, which rejoices when our children are killed, we are truly sorry when it happens, and we really and truly try to reduce casualties on the other side."
He added that, "The difference between us and the terrorists is that we hit [civilians] by mistake, and they do it with malice. This is the difference between a legitimate war and war crimes. This is the difference between us and them."
Also on Monday, various ministers announced aid programs that they were developing for residents of the North. Education Minister Yuli Tamir said she had begun work on a student aid fund, while the Finance Ministry announced it had initiated a program to compensate the tourism and agriculture sectors.
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