During Sunday's cabinet meeting, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter urged Israel to step-up operations in Gaza and reoccupy territories there to prevent ongoing Qassam attacks on the western Negev.
“We must act (in Gaza) as in the north,” Dichter said.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said in response: “Occupying parts of Gaza is irrelevant. The security establish has been working successfully for a long time in the face of the threats while examining new methods and tools of employing force."
Dichter demanded the prime minister stop Qassm fire from northern Gaza at any cost, “as the IDF paralyzed Hizbullah this week.”
He added: “If need be, we can turn Beit Hanoun into a ghost town. We need to return the balance of deterrence. It can’t be that in one week, we can stop Hizbullah fire but not Qassam fire.”
Regarding the Palestinian prisoners’ document, Dichter said: “These are not just prisoners but murderers. There is nothing in their letter that upholds the prime minister’s demands. They ask for refugees rights as legitimate right; they ask to continue terrorism with the 1967 lines, and they do not recognize Israel. It mentions a Palestinian nation of the 67 borders with its capital in Jerusalem."
PM: Prisoners' document irrelevant
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the Palestinian’s list of principles known as the “Prisoners’ document” is nothing new from Israel’s perspective.
“Its contents are completely unacceptable and it isn’t a basis for anything. I wouldn’t bother to respond to it because it is an internal Palestinian issue,” Olmert said during the meeting.
The document was drafted by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, and was signed by leading figures from other Palestinian factions in prison with him, and called for the acceptance of a Palestinian state alongside Israel on the ’67 borders. Thus far, the Islamic Jihad agreed to endorse it but it was rejected by the Hamas government.
According to the prime minister, “not everything needs Israel’s commentary. Not every fragment of every process demands the response of ministers. I don’t intend to personally offend this or that minister, but before everything else we are ministers – there are commentators in the media. The Palestinians should be allowed to mind their business themselves. We will not conduct negotiations with them except for on the basis of the road map and the quartet, and I will tell Mubarak that.”
Regarding Israel’s sensitive relationship with the Palestinian Authority, Olmert said, “We aren’t boycotting Abbas. We would be happy if he had the ability to enforce his will on the PA. Everyone knows and recognizes this, including our neighbors and including Abbas himself. The struggle against terrorism is always combining maximal activity and balances.”
Olmert added: “We have severe means in our arsenal, but sometimes, with international consideration, they are not effective. It is not good to hurt civilians, and therefore – anti-terror activity combines a few considerations. We must weigh what is effective and when.”
Olmert praises Peretz
After last week, when in the midst of discussions about defense budget cuts the relationship between Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz was on the rocks, on Sunday Olmert treated Peretz with equanimity.
“All of the operations carried out recently in Gaza brought very good results. For that, the defense establishment - and the defense minister - deserve all our respect,” he said.
“Don’t forget that all those terrorists and terror organizations are there because someone brought them there. We will always keep our eyes open on all fronts. We have the right to protect ourselves. If sharper measures become necessary, we will use them,” Olmert assured.