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Daily Israel Report

DM Barak Considering Cutting off Electricity to Gaza

Def. Min. Barak is still not considering a major military offensive against Hamastan, but rather cutting off Israel's electricity supply to Gaza.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 9/5/2007, 11:17 AM

With Israeli children from Sderot home from school for fear of rocket attacks, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is still not considering a major military offensive against Gaza, but is considering cutting off Israel's supply of electricity to the Hamas-controlled area.

Barak has ordered his department to check into the legal and operative ramifications of imposing intermittent electricity black-outs and other economic sanctions upon Gaza. 

The government's mini-security Cabinet is set to convene Wednesday morning to discuss Israel's response, if any, to the continued Kassam rocket attacks against Sderot and the Negev, in southern Israel. 

News of Barak's announcement follows by 24 hours a call by his bitter political rival, Minister Chaim Ramon, to cut off electricity to Gaza.  "It is simply inconceivable that we should supply power to those who continually fire missiles upon us," Ramon told Voice of Israel Radio on Tuesday morning.  Interviewer Yaron Dekel expressed incredulity that Ramon could believe that the United States would "allow" Israel to "turn off the switch and leave 1.5 million Arabs without electricity."  Ramon responded, "The Americans did much worse to their enemies; no other country would ever allow itself to supply power to those engaged in attacking it daily."

MK Yisrael Hason of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party took a more moderate stance than the left-wing Ramon.  Hason said the idea of cutting off all power to Gaza is "ridiculous." Instead, he said, "Israel must declare Hamas a diplomatic terrorist entity, and cut off all ties with it.  We must have nothing to do with them economically - no crossings, no deliveries of flour or anything else. They can have one international border crossing, and that will be with Egypt. Just as we take no interest in the flour situation in [the Egyptian city] El Arish, so too we need not be involved at all in what goes on in Gaza." 

Rocket Warning to Turn Off Electricity
Hason conceded that though we cannot shut down the electricity supply completely, "I can agree with the idea expressed by MK Yuval Shteinitz [of the Likud], that the Color Red rocket warning alert be synchronized with our electricity supply.  Whenever the warning alert sounds because of a Kassam rocket on the way to Sderot or elsewhere in the Negev, the electricity to Gaza should be cut off for an hour or two. That's an acceptable idea."

Minister Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) called several weeks ago for a "price tag" to be placed on every Kassam rocket.  "If they fire at our electric station in Ashkelon, we cut off their electricity [temporarily]," Cohen said. "If a rocket lands near a water pipe, we turn off their water.  This is a simple and effective method of pressure that can work."

Still No Military Option
It appears that Defense Minister Barak is not considering a military option in Gaza, even as calls for one increase.  Ministers Eli Yishai (Shas) and Avi Dichter (Kadima) say the time has come for IDF offensives in Gaza, and even Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has hinted her support for this approach.

Yediot Acharonot military correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai, who wrote several weeks ago that a large-scale military offensive was inevitable but not yet necessary, now opines that the time has come.  After outlining the disadvantages of a full-scale offensive - including the fear that it might not succeed, with all the complications that this would entail - he concludes, "it is clear that this is the most effective option to reduce the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.  It is also the way to reduce, in the long term, the all-around threat from Hamastan upon Israel, and perhaps even bring about the total collapse of the Hamas regime..."

Ben-Yishai also notes the oft-argued claim that "if not now, then it will be harder and more dangerous later."  Among other reasons, he explains that if the IDF takes action only in response to a deathly Kassam attack, it will have to be done hastily and with less planning.

An IDF unit found and destroyed four Kassam launchers ready for launching early Wednesday morning in northern Gaza.