Special status for Gaza periphery renewed, barely

Knesset questions efficacy of decree, arguing it does little to help protect citizens.

kassam sderot 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
kassam sderot 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Communities in the Gaza periphery barely had their "special status" renewed following a debate in the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee over the status's effectiveness. The status transfers emergency authority from the state to the army, effectively allowing the IDF to impose a mandatory curfew, shut down or reopen businesses and oversee school schedules. The status also allows citizens living in the area - which encompasses six to seven kilometers around the Gaza Strip - to apply for compensation for "damages suffered as a result of their situation." In a vote of seven to four, committee members approved the status but questioned its necessity, arguing that it would do little to protect local citizens from the ongoing Kassam rockets being launched by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. Communities such as Sderot have suffered from near-daily rocket attacks since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, and regular IDF incursions into Gaza have failed to stem the attacks. "We have yet to see how this status actually improves the lives of the citizens," said MK Limor Livnat (Likud), who also pointed out that the status had been intermittently granted to the Gaza periphery communities since May 2007. "We have not seen the army use it, but they continue to request it," MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said, adding that the committee had become a "rubber stamp" approving all requests issued by the IDF without questioning their effectiveness. He added that the status also threatened the democratic rights of citizens living in the affected area. Although MKs from the coalition supported the status, several questioned its value. MK Danny Yatom (Labor) voted in favor, but said he feared citizens living in Sderot would expect the IDF's assistance to reinforce their area and would likely be disappointed by the results. Defense Minister Ehud Barak sought the cabinet's approval for the special status last week, also requesting that the security cabinet approve the establishment of a national emergency authority.