Defense Minister Amir Peretz responded Tuesday to critics claiming that the IDF response was not harsh enough, saying, "I hear many remarks decrying my restraint, and it doesn't affect me. Israeli national security will not be built impetuously. Blind rage may be a very bad advisor in crisis situations." Peretz spoke during a ceremony for national security prizewinners at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, in the presence of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and Israeli President Moshe Katzav.
According to Peretz, "The situation is complicated and demands nerves of steel, good judgment, responsibility and wisdom. I am a man who seeks peace and I do not look forward to battle. The Palestinians are our neighbors and we are theirs. My desire for peace with them is great and real, and no one is more revolted by bloodshed than I. But I will not permit the blood of our citizens to be shed – our hand is open for peace, but closed into a fist in the face of terror."
The Defense Minister, in a statement about Sunday's attack on an IDF outpost, said that "our hearts are with the bereaved families, and
our prayers go out to the wounded. Our current goal is the return of the kidnapped soldier to his family, quickly and safely, and this goal guides our steps. We will not withhold any political or diplomatic effort, but the terror organizations holding the soldier must know that, from our perspective, the soldier is alive and well, and for any harm that he suffers, they will pay a high and painful price."
Says Peretz, "The difficult outcome of the attack requires a thorough investigation and drawing of conclusions, and this will happen. However, Israel cannot return to normal following such a murderous attack against it. The Palestinian leadership must know that it needs to take full responsibility for the fate and wellbeing of this soldier and for his immediate release, as well as for the prevention for further aggression against Israel. Any terror attack against Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers is unacceptable, particularly missiles launched from the Gaza strip."
Since disengagement, Peretz added, there has been no Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip, either military or civilian. "Upon leaving the area, Israel announced before the world that it would respond in the harshest manner possible to any attack against it originating in evacuated areas, and we have complete legitimacy to do so. No nation can stand for constant and intense missile fire on its cities and towns or attacks on its sovereign territory. Therefore, if need be, we will implement harsher military measures than we have in the past in order to protect Israeli citizens."
So what should we do in light of the tough situation? Peretz has the solutions: "I am convinced that the way that the prime minister and I are leading, with the support of the security-political cabinet and the whole of the government, is a way that does not reject the intelligent use of the various levels of military force at our disposal, but does not see the use of force as necessarily the correct way. Rather, the great force and capabilities of the IDF behoove us to show restraint, self-control and a sense of proportion, both for moral and political reasons.
"It is actually the IDF's force that gives the policy-makers the diplomatic and political room that they need for crisis management, especially because the fight against terror is not won in one hit. The desired goal is not death or destruction, but dialogue, compromise, security and peace."