The destructive rocket attack on the IDF base early Tuesday morning has led to a wave of calls from Knesset Members and others for a swift IDF retaliation. One Kassam was fired from Hamas-ruled Gaza around 2 AM, wounding some 65 soldiers sleeping in tents.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak met in Tel Aviv to discuss Israel's response. Shortly afterwards, Islamic Jihad and other terrorists fired a wave of mortar shells towards Israel; no one was hurt. IDF artillery directed at Kassam launching grounds in northern Gaza reportedly wounded two Arabs.
Former Deputy Intelligence Chief in the IDF, Brig.-Gen. (Ret.) Yaakov Amidror, says that one major reason the government is so hesitant to retaliate with a ground offensive is because it "is made up of people who carried out the ridiculous and irresponsible Disengagement; they know they are responsible, and it is hard for them to admit their mistake." Amidror said that ordering the IDF back into Gaza to retake the very region that they ordered the IDF to withdraw from in the 2005 Disengagement is tantamount to a confession that they erred.
Responses from Nationalist-Camp Knesset Members
MK Effie Eitam (National Union): "Israel must take military action that will lead to the toppling of the Hamas government. We must hit the terror infrastructures, and we must stop the flow of weapons from Egypt to Gaza via the Philadelphi route... The IDF is ready and well-practiced for an extensive operation, and [all that remains is to] choose the correct, convenient time."
Eitam added a political note: "I call upon the Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas parties to announce that if a large-scale operation is not approved, they will quit the government... As long as Lieberman and Yishai [the leaders of the above two parties, respectively] continue to sit around the government table and parrot the same things, they bear full responsibility for the security deterioration and for the political idiocy of the Olmert government."
MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party): "The government's vacillation and wavering are exacting a heavy price... Instead of embracing Abu Mazen and releasing murderers, the government must fulfill its obligation of protecting Israel's citizens and embark on a wide-scale ground force operation in Gaza."
MK Gideon Saar (Likud): "The Olmert government, which continues to release terrorists and promise new concessions and withdrawals to Abu Mazen, is avoiding recognizing the reality and dealing with the Hamas state in Gaza... A comprehensive military action, including ground forces, is unavoidable in dealing with Hamas's escalation and strengthening, especially in light of the free flow of weapons to Gaza. The later such action is taken, the heavier of a price we'll have to pay up to and during its implementation."
MK Uri Ariel (National Union): "All of our warnings before the Disengagement have come true. Any further delay in carrying out a second Operation Defensive Shield and the uprooting of terrorism from Gaza will merely strengthen the threat. If we don't do it today, the threat will be much greater tomorrow."
Left-Wing: Don't Respond Militarily
The Peace Bloc movement calls upon the government to reach a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. "The calls to invade Gaza and to wage a destructive bloody war of conquest in the streets of Gaza mean draconian collective punishment of 1.5 million Arabs living in abject poverty, and just pour more fuel onto the fire."
Cabinet Minister Chaim Ramon (Kadima) repeated his call for cutting off electricity to Gaza.
Brig.-Gen. (Ret.) Yaakov Amidror told Voice of Israel Radio that he does not demand a ground entry today, "because of the tensions in the north; we don't need to be stretched to our limit in two places at once," but says that such an offensive must inevitably be taken: "There was an average of 150 victims of terrorism in the months before we embarked on Operation Defensive Shield in the spring of 2002, and then it went down to 5 a year. That's because the IDF did the job. The IDF has to be on the spot; that's the only thing that keeps Hamas from taking over in Judea and Samaria as well. The army must return to strategic spots in Gaza, period... The Disengagement was totally idiocy, but no matter what, there was certainly no justification for taking the army out of the Philadelphi route and other areas in Gaza."
Amidror said he does not reject the possibility of various diplomatic and political considerations behind the government's lack of action, "but certainly such considerations must not include their own personal political survival."