Dichter furthermore noted that conditions in Qassam-weary Sderot are grim indeed, and praised the prime minister for his visit to the town last week. “Your visit was a positive event in a town whose morale is exceedingly low,” he told Olmert.
The internal security minister, who also visited Sderot last week, made these statements at a Kadima ministers' meeting, which was held right before the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday.
During the actual cabinet meeting, Dichter spoke in an even more resolute fashion. He praised IDF operations in Gaza, but noted that they "were not quite enough to change the outlook for Sderot, which is beyond bleak.”
Dichter added that “the government must instruct the IDF to eliminate the rocket fire from Gaza entirely. These attacks need not be minimized or managed, but stopped completely irrespective of the cost to the Palestinians.”
The internal security minister noted that 180 Qassam Rocket have been fired at Gaza vicinity communities since the start of 2008. Referencing his recent visit to Sdeort he stated that “the weekend was absolutely terrible on them. After a draining week like that I would expect the IDF chief of staff to address the government as well.”
Ashkelon-resident Dichter lashed out at Prime Minister Olmert and his fellow government ministers, noting that “the government is entirely obtuse to the goings-on in Sderot”.
Olmert: We must be sensitive to repercussions
Responding to Dichter’s scathing criticism, Defense Minister Ehud Barak replied that Israel must uphold its current policy vis a vie Gaza. To this Dichter replied “I respectfully disagree with the defense minister. Israel’s policy in Gaza must not continue, as the military must reestablish deterrence in the Strip.”
Barak also refered to Dichter's statments as "panic-driven talk the likes of which I had never heard in the government before," and assured the cabinet ministers that "we are taking the right action in Gaza. We will resolve the Qassam situation just as we have dealt with suicide bombings in the past."
"We are impacting the overall quality of life in Gaza and destroying the terror infrastructure," said Barak.
As the cabinet meeting opened, Olmert praised IDF and Shin-Bet operations in the Gaza Strip, and noted that such strikes will continue.
“We must be sensitive to the very real repercussions that these attacks have for residents of Sderot and other Gaza vicinity communities”, said Olmert. “They live in constant fear and are threatened by persistent attacks that cause damage far beyond that which can be assessed in casualties alone.”
The prime minister also assured his cabinet that the government will address all civilian concerns in these communities, as well as addressing nagging security concerns. “We will address the needs of the residents of Sderot and other Gaza vicinity communities in the upcoming weeks,” he stated.
Housing Minister: No humanitarian crisis in Gaza
Also during the cabinet meeting, Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim addressed the crisis in Gaza, precipitated by the blockade imposed on the Strip by the defense minister Thursday. This in light of persistent rocket attacks originating from the region.
“We should not manufacture a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Its residents are hostages of a deranged regime, but there is no real humanitarian crisis there,” said Boim.
The housing minister also attacked the UN, which condemned Israel following the Gaza closure. “I don’t hear the UN speak out for residents of Gaza vicinity communities which have been living in the shadow of rocket salvos for weeks, months and even years,” he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an end to Qassam rocket and sniper attacks on the western Negev during the weekend, but also called on Israel to show restraint in wake of these attacks, warning of a looming humanitarian crisis in Gaza.