Peretz urges end to policy of restraint

Defense Minister Amir Peretz called on Monday for an end to Israel's policy of restraint against Palestinian terror organizations and ordered the IDF to prepare to launch operations inside the Gaza Strip and against the infrastructure that enabled the suicide bomber who killed three people in Eilat earlier in the day to cross from Gaza into Israel. "We will not make any discounts for terror groups, and the cease-fire will not prevent us from targeting them," Peretz said following a security assessment with senior defense officials, including outgoing IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz. Despite Peretz's harsh response, however, defense officials estimated that the IDF would not launch any major operations in response to the attack on Eilat. Israel's first Arab minister, Ghaleb Majadle (Labor), condemned the "loss of life" in the suicide bombing that took place earlier in Eilat, saying that "such attacks won't do anything for the peace process, and will only drag down talks." "We need to do everything possible to ensure that these things won't happen, to ensure a better future for us all," Majadle said. "We all want peace," he continued, adding that he believed that eventually the Palestinians would unite behind the need for negotiations. Several right-wing MKs, including MK Yitzhak Levy from NU-NRP, called for Israel to react harshly to the attack, stating that the policy of restraint had proven itself a failure. "The government is erring by acting with restraint. We need to set a price tag for attacks like this," said Levy. Meanwhile, Arab MKs who spoke in the plenum Monday condemned the attack. "These attacks result in the deaths of innocent civilians," said MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List). Meir Yitzhak Halevi, mayor of Eilat, called the fact that suicide bombers had managed to infiltrate the city "very disturbing," and said that he hoped that city officials would soon have all the information necessary to address the threat. Vice Premier Shimon Peres spoke with Halevi on the phone after the attack. "Eilat was, and will remain in the future, a city of peace and tourism. All means necessary will be utilized to assure that this situation continues," Peres said.