Peretz: We can deliver painful answers to Kassams

Defense Minister Amir Peretz rejected on Monday the criticism leveled at him from the opposition and also within the coalition, over the way the IDF is fighting the Kassam missiles being launched at Sderot and other places close to the Gaza Strip. Speaking at a Labor faction meeting in the Knesset, he said, "They have to understand we have the capability to deliver much more painful answers [to Kassams]." Referring to the 24-hour ultimatum issued the night before, Peretz said that he expected quiet to be achieved in the very near future. If not, Peretz said, "We have passed the message through international channels that our restraint is not endless. We warned them that if the Kassams are not put back into storage, they should understand that we have much more painful answers." Meanwhile, Peretz insisted that he was using "unorthodox methods," and that in his opinion, "Escalation is not an objective in itself, neither is restraint. Both these ways should be used to achieve quiet. My only considerations are how we can achieve quiet." Peretz has come under fire on all fronts for his opposition to a more forceful offensive by the IDF against the Palestinian organizations launching the missiles. Not only the right-wing politicians, who took advantage of a Knesset debate on Peretz's pet legislation, the new minimum wage law, attacked him. Coalition colleagues, such as Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Labor MK Matan Vilna'i have also been critical of Peretz over the last few days and recommended that the army be sent on a ground offensive into the northern Gaza Strip. If that were not enough, Peretz's neighbors began demonstrating outside his home on Sunday after dozens of missiles rained down on his hometown. "As a resident of Sderot," he said at the Knesset, "I can say that I don't remember a day as difficult as yesterday. There is no reason whatsoever that a civilian population should suffer like this. I see friends of mine, who grew up with me, protesting." Peretz said that he hoped that peace would return "very soon, and I'm not talking about days," referring to the 24-hour ultimatum issued on Sunday night to the Palestinians. But he didn't specify what the IDF would do if the firing continued. Peretz's aides said after the meeting that he was determined to prove that the Kassams can be dealt with by a combination of military and diplomatic action and that the previous methods of "force only" were not effective. Peretz mentioned the incident on Friday in which seven members of one family were killed by an explosion on Gaza Beach. He said that there was "no definite conclusion yet on what caused the serious incident, and I recommend that everyone wait for the results of the investigation, hopefully tomorrow night." He emphasized that Israel's offer of medical treatment to those wounded in Friday's incident was in no way an admission of guilt. Israel had offered medical treatment "only because it was human beings in need" of help.