Members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee called on Monday for the resignation of Defense Minster Amir Peretz. The demand followed Sunday's telephone conversation between Peretz and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in which the defense minister urged Abbas to exercise his authority and do everything possible to stop Kassam rocket attacks against Israel. Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin said that Peretz's "flame had died," and that he never tried any new tactics. Beilin also called for the government to disband. "On Saturday, one of [Olmert's] ministers says that we must eliminate the Hamas leadership and that Abbas is no longer relevant, and on Monday a different minister says that he spoke to the PA chairman and requested a cease-fire. There is no policy and no methodology." MK Danny Naveh (Likud) reacted cynically to the Peretz-Abbas conversation, saying that the meeting should be cut short since "any minute, Peretz will get a phone call from Abbas." He added that Israel's security was disintegrating and that Hamas and Hizbullah were getting stronger. Naveh's fellow Likud MK, Yuval Steinitz, said that Peretz should have resigned long ago with the rest of the government. "Instead of proposing solutions he is pleading with Abbas," he said. Steinitz called on the IDF to embark on an operation similar to Operation Defensive Shield. MK Effi Eitam (NU-NRP) turned to Peretz during the meeting and exclaimed: "You and the chief of staff must resign immediately! You are both preventing the IDF from renewing itself." He went on say that the IDF soldiers had lost their faith in the two "because of the Second Lebanon War and your lack of ability in dealing with Kassam rocket attacks." MK Zvi Hendel (NU-NRP) called on Peretz to fire IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, effective immediately. "If you want to revive the IDF, the first thing that needs to be done is to show your chief of staff the door," said Hendel. At the end of the meeting, MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) also harshly criticized the Peretz, saying that the prime minister and the defense minister were refusing to make a decision on the IDF operation because of the "trauma" they were suffered in the Lebanon war. Peretz told the FADC members that he did not promise anything in his conversation with Abbas. "I told him that when there are concrete proposals to stop the Kassam rocket fire we would examine them," said the defense minister. Peretz also told the committee that he had no intention of providing details on the IDF's Gaza operation and that the IDF had been instructed to adapt its operations to what was effective. Earlier Monday, Vice Premier Shimon Peres said that Peretz should not have had any contact with Abbas about ending the Kassam rocket fire without consulting Prime Minster Ehud Olmert first. In an interview with Israel Radio, Peres added that any initiation of talks with the Palestinians was obliged to go through the prime minister. Abbas is set to meet Monday afternoon in Gaza with Palestinian factions to discuss the mutual cease-fire with Israel. A Palestinian source claimed Abbas received, via a third party, guarantees from Israel that the IDF would cease its activities in the Gaza Strip in return for halting the Kassam attacks. Tension had also surfaced earlier Monday between the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry in the wake of Sunday's Peretz-Abbas telephone conversation. The PMO expressed concern that the conversation and its exposure could have foiled Abbas's attempt to reach a cease-fire between Palestinian factions.
Tell the truth about peace (editorial)
PMO officials added that Peretz could have torpedoed a possible meeting between Olmert and Abbas.
The conversation came in advance of a security cabinet meeting on Wednesday where operative decisions on how to deal with the continuous fire are expected to be made.
Earlier in the day, at the cabinet meeting, Shin Bet (Israel's Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin characterized Abbas as "a general without soldiers."