Arens Blasts Zikim Decision

The boot camp at Zikim is closing its gates and former Defense Minister Arens says it's yet another retreat. IDF denies it is evacuating the base.

Gil Ronen , | updated: 18:13

Four IDF basic training companies moved out permanently from their base at Zikim, south of Ashkelon, this week. Some observers see the move as a a belated reaction to a rocket attack on the base by Gaza terrorists which wounded 69 soldiers in 2007.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens said Friday that all of Israel's citizens should criticize the army's decision, which he said is a reflection of "the government's reckless policy of retreating instead of fighting our enemies."

Fortifying Zikim, September 2007.
Flash 90

The policy, he added, is "outrageous" and only encourages the enemy to continue firing rockets at Israel. Arens accused the Kadima government of "dividing spoils" in its final months and handing them over to other countries. He said that he believed that Kadima would pay the price for this at the polls.

Arens was Israel's Defense Minister three times between 1983 and 1999.

Base 'just changing its role'
The IDF denied that the move was an act of retreat in the face of rocket attacks. It said that the base is just changing its role, and will probably serve instructional purposes in the future. Three basic training companies remain at Zikim, but they too will complete their basic training in February and leave.

Following the rocket attack on Zikim in September 2007 and the outcry by soldiers' parents, concrete fortifications were brought into the base. At the time, the media played up some parents' claims that their kids were too young and inexperienced to be placed in harm's way at the boot camp. 

When the IDF's plans to pull the trainees out of the base were made public, however, many residents of southern Israel felt betrayed by it. They said that the IDF is sending a message of weakness when it takes soldiers out of the area but leaves citizens to bear the rocket fire from Gaza on their own.