Residents of southern Israel are slamming Defense Minister Amir Peretz for adopting a more lenient approach to Qassam rocket attacks on communities in the south compared to the harsh response offered to rocket fire on northern residents.
During the war in Lebanon, southern residents were excited about declarations by Peretz and his insistence on engaging in ground operations in the face of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resistance. The southerners hoped that Peretz would adopt the same attitude to Palestinian rocket attacks originating in Gaza.
Grad missile in Ashkelon this week (Photo: Amir Cohen)
However, the locals were bitterly disappointed to hear the defense minister's speech Wednesday that called for renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians.
"I believe there's no room for any dialogue with the Palestinians," said Gil Ta'asa, the chief of security in the southern community of Netiv Ha'asara. "I think we learned a thing or two in the past month. The equation now is much simpler: For every Qassam fired we should destroy the house where it was fired from, exactly as was done against Katyusha fire in the north."
Alon Davidi, who heads the anti-Qassam protest committee in the town of Sderot, wrote Peretz a letter, slamming him for his declarations regarding the need to renew negotiations with the Palestinians at this time, "while our dead are still lying before us."
"His words upset many good people with common sense and an open heart," he wrote. "As if we didn't learn anything the past month. As if we didn't discover what's the Arab world all about on all its arms, starting with the President of Iran…and including some of the Arab Knesset members."
"We have Amir Peretz the hallucinating politician, the hero of the Israeli Left, and then there's Amir Peretz who wants to hit Hizbullah with full force," Davidi concluded in his letter.
'Gaza withdrawal a mistake'
Speaking to Ynet, Davidi said that southern residents hoped Peretz learned that "life as a defense minister is more complex than imaginary talk about peace."
"At some phases in the war it appeared he finally realized where we live and what's the character of the old, menacing Middle East," Davidi said. "But then came his miserable declaration and showed us we shouldn't get excited about a few left-wingers who became wiser. There's still the hardcore within the government – people with imagination who dream about peace and all sorts of agreements."
Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor of Ashkelon Shimon Cohen also voiced his displeasure, adding that "now of all times, after the month we had in the north, anyone with a little intelligence in his head realizes that Arab mentality means a deal signed with us is no deal."
"We must go back to full control of the Gaza Strip until we end Qassam fire," he said. "After what happened in Lebanon this is much clearer. Now it's clear to me that we made a terrible mistake while withdrawing from the Gaza Strip."