Analysis: An unhappy case of deja vu

Battle against Kassams is reminiscent of war on Hizbullah and its Katyushas.

katyusha 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
katyusha 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The TV footage of Defense Minister Amir Peretz rushing for cover in his family garage when the "red alert" Kassam sirens went off in Sderot on Thursday morning was eerily reminiscent of similar pictures from four months ago. Peretz was then under fire at the other end of the country, time taking cover from Katyushas. To the defense minister's credit, in both cases, he didn't seem flustered or panicked, and carried out the orders of his security personnel quietly and calmly. But as admirable as it might be that the man at the head of Israel's defense establishment knows how to carry out basic instructions and won't turn a hair in the face of enemy fire, these are not the most important qualifications for his job. There are other similarities between the scenes from the North in the summer and the those in the South now, including the shortcomings of the civilian and military leadership in the Lebanon war and the ongoing failure of the IDF to deal with the persistent Kassams and of the government to solve the dire situation of the local population. Despite the obvious discrepancies in scale, the number of details both confrontations have in common is alarming. Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are repeating the same mantra now that they did in the last failing stages of the war, "We never turned down any of the plans the IDF presented to us." Perhaps officially they didn't but, on both fronts, they didn't exactly go out of their way to encourage the top brass to bring them a comprehensive, long-range plan instead of a long series of quick fixes. Just like the month-long Lebanese campaign, the Gaza one seems to be a series of starts and stops. At the lower end of the hierarchy, you can meet around the Gaza Strip highly-trained and motivated junior officers with extensive experience of operations in Gaza, who have some very clear ideas about how to put the Kassamists out of business for a long time. What they're lacking are generals who are willing to put their careers on the line by backing more audacious initiatives. Instead, the IDF is only using tried and proven tactics of pinprick attacks, small incursions and intelligence-based targeted killings of terrorists. Once again, like in Lebanon - in the statistics at least - we're winning. The numbers of Hamas, Jihad and Fatah fighters killed keeps climbing - but while it might look good on a PowerPoint presentation, it doesn't help a family in Kiryat Shmona or Sderot on the receiving end of a Katyusha or Kassam. On the home front, no lessons have been learnt from the scandalous way in which the people of the Galilee were left to fend for themselves. Those without the resources to evacuate are left to cower in unequipped shelters. The mounting desperation in Sderot is similarly without official relief. The same goes for businesses and factories in both areas; if those up North have still to receive any kind of financial aid, why should those around Sderot complain? Small wonder that the most bizarre d j vu was supplied by Arkadi Gaydamak, who once again has turned up to play the sugar daddy, bussing hundreds of stressed-out refugees for a well-deserved respite by the sea. The other main media event Thursday at Sderot, besides the Peretz family posing in the garage, was the tour that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni organized for the diplomatic corps. The ambassadors were apparently deeply impressed by the difficult situation and the blatant way in which the Palestinians were attacking Israeli civilians while taking cover behind their own. It remains to be seen whether the policy of their countries will be impacted. Not to belittle the importance of Livni's initiative, but perhaps it might have been a good idea to bring a delegation of Israeli cabinet ministers, government department heads and Treasury officials on the Sderot tour first.