W. Negev kibbutzniks told to stay put

United Kibbutz Movement has no plans to execute evacuation plan for kibbutzim within rocket range.

kassam remains 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
kassam remains 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
An emergency evacuation plan for the kibbutzim within rocket and mortar range of Gaza was finalized this week, but the United Kibbutz Movement has no plans to execute it, the movement's security head Yoav Margalit told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. He is also working on a relief program to provide Kibbutz members, especially children, with a short break away from their besieged homes, Margalit said. Still - stay put and fight the government for protection - is the public message the movement has given those kibbutz members who live and work under almost constant rocket fire. "Retreat is not acceptable to me," movement secretary-general Ze'ev Shor told Kibbutz members and leaders who gathered for an emergency meeting held in the afternoon at Kibbutz Nahal Oz at the Gaza border. The meeting followed an escalation of Palestinian launched rocket and mortar attacks in which Jimmy Kedoshim, 48, a member of Kibbutz Kfar Aza was killed on May 9 and Shuli Katz, 69, from Kibbutz Gvar'am, was killed last Monday during a visit to Kibbutz Yesha. Since then some members of Kibbutz Kfar Aza have spoken of leaving. Although Shor himself does not live in the area, he dismissed proposals put forward by a few kibbutz members at the meeting that a mass exit from their southern border communities was the only way to wake up the government to their plight. Instead, Shor said that with the help of Margalit he was establishing an emergency task force to organize the country's 270 kibbutzim to lobby on behalf on those who live on the border. Shor did not publicly unveil his political battle plan, but he said that a top priority was pushing the government to add NIS 100 million to the 300 million it already earmarked to provide protection for the buildings in the southern area as a whole, most of which are vulnerable to attack. According to the Kibbutz Movement spokesman Aviv Leshem, full structural protections exist for only three of the 24 kibbutzim along the border that are under direct threat of rockets or mortars. There are another seven kibbutzim within rocket range that also need protection, he said. Shor called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to leave the coalition if more money is not provided and immediate steps are not taken to provide structural security from the rocket attacks. The government needs to know that the time has come to act, Shor said. Yesterday, he urged the government to talk with Hamas to stop the attacks. That diplomatic measure would be his preferred choice, Shor said. But if the government doesn't want to pursue a diplomatic route, then it should enter Gaza militarily, he said. "We want quiet," he said. The status quo is unacceptable, Shor added. The government needs to chose between diplomacy or the military, Shor said. Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Jelin, who also attended the meeting, warned the residents that they had to be prepared to fight the government. "We have no leadership. No one can change the reality, not Barak and not Bibi [Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu]," he said. "In the end we will have to do it for ourselves," he said. He suggested the Kibbutz members learn a lesson from the citizens of Sderot and should turn to the High Court of Justice to force the government to provide them with protection. The price tag of every dead person can't be a few extra ounces of protection, Jelin said. It needs to be provided on a more massive scale and not piece meal, he said. "As long as Israel thinks that the strategic threat is Iran, no one will be interested," Jelin said. "You here are the country's protective wall, if you do not want the wall to fall you have to stop it from crumbling," he said. Ilan Shlomi, from Kibbutz Kissufim, left the meeting feeling as directionless as he entered it. After seven years of sustaining rocket attacks, he said, he had expected something more. But, Shlomi said, he did agree with one thing Shor said. "I'm staying here. Leaving is not an option," he said. One mother who didn't want to give her name wasn't so sure. "I'm a citizen and not a soldier in an army," she said. She came to the south because it is an excellent place to live, she said. "But I'm not willing to die here. I'm not so sure I would stay if a mortar exploded next to my son," she added.