Barak backs truce with Hamas: I don't regret one day of quiet

Karni crossing 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Karni crossing 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that he supported the continuation of the truce in the south despite intelligence on the re-arming of Hamas and its preparations to launch new terror attacks. "I don't regret one day of quiet this truce has granted the children of Sderot, the Gaza-area local councils and kibbutzim," he said. Barak spoke first to members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and then to the Knesset plenum. The plenum convened following a request by more than 25 opposition MKs who had complained about the lack of a military response to recent rocket attacks on Sderot, Ashkelon and the northern Negev. He told the MKs that, compared to the pre-truce period, when there was an average of 500 attacks each month, there has been an average of only 10 since the truce went into effect. MK Michael Eitan (Likud) lashed out at Barak for ignoring the recent spike in attacks and told him that "only 10...a month" is not good enough. Barak responded by saying that the increase followed an Israeli operation inside the Gaza Strip three weeks ago in which the army blew up a tunnel being dug toward Israel and killed four Palestinians. "Since the IDF operated inside Gaza, we did see an increase in firing attacks, but this increase is being stabilized," Barak said. "I certainly do not regret any quiet day the residents, the children and the elderly of the south have had. At first, nobody believed it would last, but it did." Barak added that the truce serves Israel no less than it serves Hamas, and therefore he believes it will hold after its scheduled expiration on December 19. "Hamas is dependent on open crossings into the Gaza Strip, and it has an interest in maintaining quiet if it wants goods, medical supplies and fuel to be allowed in," he said. To MKs who claimed that defense policy was being driven by political considerations, Barak replied: "I have heard about the 'zero heroes,'" a sarcastic reference to critics who have said Hamas attacks can be cut to zero. "As someone who led soldiers on the battlefield, I don't need your moral preaching and you can't teach me manners of war or peace. I am not minister of war but minister of defense...and my job is to ensure the safety of the state and its citizens. "Before we send our soldiers to war," Barak continued, "we must be able to look every mother and father in the eye and tell them we tried everything in our power, and [only] as a last resort do we send their sons to battle." Barak said that NIS 414 million has been invested in arming and shielding facilities and border areas within seven kilometers from the Gaza Strip. "We choose an area under immediate threat and we arm it according to a list of priorities," he said. Regarding efforts to release Cpl. Gilad Schalit, who was abducted by Hamas, Barak informed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that there were no new developments, although he later told the plenum he felt the truce "contributes to the negotiations" for Schalit's release. While appearing before the committee, Barak also praised the Palestinian Authority's efforts to control extremists in Jenin and Hebron by arresting Hamas activists and impounding funds earmarked for terror activity. "It is still not what we want to see, but without a doubt this is an important activity," he said.