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(photo credit: Brian Hendler [file])
Even as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret in Petra on Thursday for Palestinian civilian casualties over the last few days, the Foreign Ministry armed its representatives abroad with more aggressive talking points to deflect a wave of criticism over the recent IDF actions.
According to diplomatic officials, some of Israel's ambassadors are complaining that in the face of "real time" televised images over the last few days of dead Palestinian civilians, especially children, Jerusalem's expressions of sorrow over the deaths have simply lost their impact.
On Wednesday, following a missile strike in Khan Yunis that killed a pregnant women and her brother, much more detailed and aggressive talking points were sent to Israel's emissaries aboard that included the following:
"When Palestinians perpetrate acts of terrorism and Israel's security forces are obliged to respond, a knee-jerk media reaction invariably follows. This reaction is generally fashioned upon a dubious double standard: Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians is viewed with indulgent tolerance, while Israel is blamed for 'brutal repression' if, when defending itself, Palestinian civilians are inadvertently harmed. This double standard must be refuted as both immoral and illogical.
"When some 1,700 Israeli families left the 25 vibrant communities they had built over the last three decades [in Gaza], it was expected that the Palestinians of Gaza would respond by starting to build their own lives in a territory newly devoid of any Israeli presence. Instead, in nearly a year since disengagement, Palestinian terrorists have escalated the conflict, firing more than 500 Kassam artillery rockets at the Israeli civilian population living adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
"When Palestinians willfully target Israeli civilians, whether by a suicide bomber or a Kassam rocket fired into the midst of a town, they are morally responsible for inviting Israel's counter-terrorist strikes in response, including any Palestinian casualties that may result. Similarly, when Palestinian terrorists deliberately and cynically deploy their rocket launchers, weapons factories or arms warehouses among their own civilian population in order to shield themselves from Israeli action, they knowingly and purposely endanger their own civilians."
"Israel of course regrets the loss of innocent life and takes every precaution to avoid harming civilian bystanders when taking self-defensive action against Palestinian terrorists. In fact, according to the Institute for Counter Terrorism of Herzliya, non-combatant Palestinian deaths average about 17 percent of all Palestinian deaths in the conflict, while non-combatant Israeli deaths average about 70%."
"Were there no terrorism, there would be no need for counter-terrorism. This difference is self-evident and cannot be overstated."
"Had the Palestinian leadership acted differently, the youth of Gaza would be growing up today with a future, rather than being recruited for the delusional rewards of suicidal 'martyrdom.' If the fruits of the present Palestinian self-government in the Gaza Strip are daily Kassam salvos, what vision does future Palestinian sovereignty promise?"
While Israel has come under a barrage of criticism in the international media, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did not receive any calls Thursday from colleagues calling to protest IDF actions. The reasons given for this range from an understanding in the world that Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks to a sense of "fatigue" felt around the world to the continuing killing in the area.
Meanwhile, Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said not enough had been done to prevent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and he warned that Olmert's realignment plan would put the whole of Israel under the threat of Kassam attacks.
Netanyahu told the 35th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem that Olmert's unilateral withdrawals, if executed, would not bring international recognition or a cessation of terror. "The terror will not stop because of it, what we will get is something different - a Hamas victory," he said. He warned the entire State of Israel would be within range of Kassam rocket attacks fired from cells in the West Bank if a withdrawal takes place.
The opposition leader went on to attack Olmert's current anti-Kassam measures: "We still haven't done enough to prevent Kassam rocket fire. When I was prime minister, there weren't any Kassam or missile attacks. When Katyusha's were fired in the north, we turned out the lights on Beirut," said Netanyahu.
"The difference between democratic countries which fight terror, and terrorists who attack them is the endeavor to limit civilian casualties, Netanyahu said. "The firepower that the IDF possesses could wipe out an entire population."
He went on to say that if that power were in the hands of Hamas-led Palestinian Authority the situation would be different "If the other side had this, they would do it."
The firing of Kassam rockets from the northern Gaza strip continued Thursday as three additional projectiles fell near Jewish communities in the western Negev. No injuries were reported, but a structure was lightly damaged.
The attacks came as an IAF investigation ordered by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz concluded that a technical glitch was the cause of the botched missile strike in Khan Yunis. Army officials said the IAF had a senior Hamas member's vehicle in its crosshairs but for reasons unknown, the missile strayed from its path and struck an adjacent house. The IAF is still investigating the precise technical problem that caused the missile to fly off course.
Livni, meanwhile, is scheduled to visit Moscow for two days at the beginning of July to discuss both the current situation with the Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear issue.
Livni was scheduled to visit Moscow immediately after the elections in March, but that that trip was canceled after Moscow invited a Hamas delegation for a visit. Olmert is expected to visit Russia by the end of the year.
Livni also called US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday and thanked the US for its support in securing Israel's membership into the International Committee of the Red Cross.
During what was described as a short conversation, Livni, according to sources in her office, also briefed Rice on the situation in Sderot, saying that Israel regretted the loss of innocent life, but that it could not sit back and tolerate continuous rocket fire on one of its cities.
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