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      Barak Accused of 'Punching Holes in the Sands of Gaza'

      Kadima's MK HaNegbi charged Barak with pussyfooting in Gaza and "punching holes in the sand" of Gaza. Netanyahu scolds Livni and she scolds Barak.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 2/3/2009, 9:55 PM

      Israel News Photo-Flash 90

      Kadima Knesset Member Tzachi HaNegbi, chairman of the prestigious Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, charged Defense Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday afternoon with overruling Kadima leaders who want a stronger IDF retaliation against continuing rocket attacks on southern Israel.

      "It will take the workers in Gaza just a few hours to fix the holes that the IDF punched into the sand", MK HaNegbi complained several hours after a long-range Grad missile exploded in the center of Ashkelon for the first time since the government declared an end to Operation Cast Lead two weeks ago.

      The Defense Minister, speaking later in the day at the annual Herzliya Conference, maintained an outwardly hawkish stance. He said that at the same time he was speaking, the Israel Air Force was strafing a Hamas training base and bombing a terrorist's vehicle and several smuggling tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza.

      However, previous aerial bombings and even a brief ground incursion into Gaza have not kept Hamas and its allies from attacking the western Negev with more than 30 rockets and mortars since the IDF withdrew from Gaza.

      With the voting one week away and the polls showing more popularity for Israel Is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) and the Ichud Leumi (National Union) parties at the expense of Labor, Likud and Kadima, the leaders of the three major parties are snapping at each other and competing for being the most hawkish.

      Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu has jumped into the rift with vows to bring down the Hamas government in Gaza if he is chosen to form the next government. His campaign that he is "strong" is a slap at Livni's being a woman.

      Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Livni, his successor as party leader, have been talking tough, insisting that Israel will respond harshly to every attack. The Defense Minister, who also heads Labor, has maintained that the IDF dealt Hamas "a heavy blow" and that the former military capability of Hamas is history.

      Defending himself against carping by Foreign Minister Livni and trying to keep on good terms with the dovish flank in the party, he mocked her for not knowing what it is to be in combat.