Yishai calls for suspending talks

Says Israel should consider retaking Philadelphi; Shalom: Attack warning against releasing prisoners.

silvan shalom 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
silvan shalom 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Knesset members from across the political spectrum called for a boost in security measures along the southern border Monday, following the suicide attack in Dimona that left one woman dead and 40 wounded. Security forces initially believed that two men from the Gaza Strip infiltrated Israel via Egypt to carry out the attack, fulfilling the fears of many MKs that the south has been left more vulnerable since Hamas blew open large sections of the Gaza-Egypt border wall on January 23. The border breach, which lasted 12 days and allowed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to cross into Egypt unchecked, has caused a "security crisis," according to intelligence officials. A hi-tech security fence along the border with Egypt, a massive IDF ground operation into the Gaza Strip, and a deployment of troops in southern communities were some of the suggestions that MKs issued in response to the two suicide bombers. Shas chairman and Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Eli Yishai called for Israel to reclaim control of the Philadelphi Corridor along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. "The previous government's decision to abandon the Philadelphi Corridor without supervision was a bad mistake," Yishai said. "The southern border of Israel is now porous and exposed." Yishai added that Israel must immediately invest funds in a southern fence to protect itself from infiltrators. Plans for such a fence, which would span 214 kilometers and fall along the internationally recognized border between Israel and Egypt, were established three years ago, said MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud). "When I was head of the [Foreign Affairs and Defense] Committee we drew up specific plans for such a fence, which even then we knew would become necessary for Israel to protect itself from attacks in the south," said Steinitz. "This government has created no effective terror policy, it has stupidly handed control of the Egypt-Gaza border into terrorist hands, and now it's surprised that rockets fall in Sderot and there are terror attacks in Dimona." Steinitz said he was heartened by reports that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had committed himself to erecting a fence, but added that promises were not enough and that "actions were needed on the ground." Several other MKs - including Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP), and Ariel Attias (Shas) - also expressed support for an Israeli-Egyptian fence. "The deplorable attack is the result of the breach of the border between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai," said Vilan. "There is no escaping the need to quickly erect a fence that will separate the Sinai from Israel." Several right-wing members of the opposition said that a fence would not be enough to thwart further attacks on the South and called for Israel to launch a massive incursion into Gaza. "This attack forces us to understand that all the talks with Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] are worthless, as Hamas controls the Strip," said MK Silvan Shalom (Likud), who also called on the government to hit Hamas's leaders in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar. "The Winograd [report] and Annapolis [peace conference] are over, so there are no more excuses against a Gaza operation, as recommended by the defense establishment. It's time to embark on the required operation in order to defeat Hamas terror and prevent them from carrying additional terror attacks against innocent civilians in the future," he said. NU-NRP MKs seconded Shalom's sentiments, and added that under no circumstance could Israel proceed with its intentions to lighten restrictions on Palestinian security prisoners and release persons with "blood on their hands." "According to Olmert, the person who drove the terrorist and prepared his explosive device will be able to be released from prison," said MK Aryeh Eldad (NU-NRP). The NU-NRP Party also released a statement blaming the attack on Israel's 2005 disengagement from Gaza and denouncing Arab MKs for attending the funeral of the former head of one of the organizations that took responsibility for Monday's attack. "The attack in Dimona, carried out by men of Fatah and the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine], established by terrorist George Habash, exemplifies Israel's weakness following its fleeing the Gaza Strip," read the statement.