Sderot Reservists Meet Defense Officials; Leave 'Empty-Handed'

A group of concerned IDF reservists from Sderot, which is under an ongoing PA rocket assault, met with defense officials on Monday evening.

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Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

A group of concerned IDF reservists from the Negev city of Sderot, which has suffered hundreds of Palestinian Authority rocket attacks in recent years, met with defense officials on Monday evening. As in a previous meeting, the reservists say that they came away "empty-handed".
The reservists say that they came away empty-handed.

The grassroots group of reservists from Sderot wrote a letter last week to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declaring their unwillingness to serve in the army while their own families are left defenseless against PA rocket attacks from Gaza. In addition, the group demanded on Sunday that the government appoint a special minister for the western Negev, and that the region be given priority in national budgetary and infrastructure considerations.

The meeting with the Sderot reservists on Monday evening in Tel Aviv included Defense Minister Amir Peretz, the senior IDF officer in charge of the reserve corps, Brigadier-General Danny Biran, the deputy director of the Defense Ministry and other defense officials. For Peretz, the meeting was the second of its kind; the reservists met with the Defense Minister on Friday afternoon, as well, and with Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan on Sunday.

At the Monday meeting, the reserve soldiers heard from officials about the operational principles of the IDF in general, as well as about the offensive efforts being made by the army to end the rocket attacks on Sderot and the western Negev. Defense Minister Peretz implored the group to leave the IDF out of any political dispute. In reply, the Sderot reservists emphasized that they had not called for insubordination or refusal to report for reserve duty.

Alon Davidi, chairman of the reservists' group, known as the Sderot Security Council, told Arutz Sheva Radio about the latest meeting: "We complained about the fact that while we are absorbing Kassam rocket attacks, there are rumors coming from government sources and senior ministers declaring that the government will not endanger IDF soldiers in a ground incursion or in an operation of one sort or another. It is immoral to say such things in that fashion."

The Sderot residents expressed their impression that they are being discriminated against and abandoned.

The Sderot residents also expressed to the defense officials their impression that they are being discriminated against and abandoned: "When the residents of the north were under attack, we undertook a campaign to restore security in the north. In Operation Defensive Shield, we went out to do battle in order to restore security to residents of the center of the country. When it comes to us, the residents of Sderot, there are second thoughts about endangering soldiers."

Overall, Davidi expressed great dissatisfaction with the meeting. In particular, he noted that IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was absent, despite promises that he would attend. "We got no answers from the Defense Minister. There is no news for the residents and we are returning empty-handed," Davidi said.

As a result of their disappointment with the meeting, the Sderot Security Council intends to press on with their protest. "Thus far, 700 residents of Sderot and the surrounding areas who serve in the reserves have signed a petition of mutual commitment. We will not rest until we know that the government and the political echelon are doing all in their power to lift the terrorism from Sderot and the region."