Gov't okays draft of thousands of reservists
As part of lessons learned from Second Lebanon War, ministers approve operation of national economy emergency system, mobilization of some 6,700 reserve soldiers for reinforcement of possible ground operation in Gaza. Olmert: This will be a long and difficult war
The reservists will be called up ahead of the possibility of expanding the military operation in the Gaza Strip, subject to the approval of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. A national economy emergency system was not operated during the Second Lebanon War.
Barak asked the government to approve the call up of thousands of reserve soldiers ahead of an expansion of the military operation in the Gaza Strip. The defense minister told the cabinet that the reserve forces would only be used for the reinforcement of a ground operation, if and when it should take place.
"Ahead of the continuance of planned operational activity, we need to draft some 7,000 reserve soldiers with emergency orders," Barak said.
The IDF has recruited some 2,000 reservists so far, in additional to the regular units sent to the Gaza border.
The army has also begun mobilizing tanks and reinforcement infantry troops to the Gaza region in the event a ground incursion is ordered. In an interview with the British SKY network, the defense minister said that ground forces would indeed enter the Strip if the move was deemed necessary by Jerusalem.
Barak did not declare outright that there would be a ground offensive, but said that he could not presume to guess what Hamas' next move would be and therefore was preparing the military for any contingency.
According to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, "This will be a long and difficult war which will be very painful. The expectation that we will be able to hit hundreds of terrorists a day cannot be realized."
The prime minister added that "Israel will need a lot of patience and stamina in the home front. The most important thing is not to involve politics in this process. We must not involve arguments and propaganda. The State of Israel must remain united in its war on terror. That's what we need in order to succeed."
Olmert said at the start of the meeting that "the State of Israel has launched a military operation in order to restore a state of calm for the south's residents, who have been suffering unrest and a disruption to their lives, which have prevented them from leading a normal and peaceful life which any person deserves and needs."
According to the prime minister, "This is not a simple situation, but we will deal with it with careful consideration, patiently and firmly in order to reach the desired results."
Addressing the situation in the home front, Olmert said, "While the army units are in a conflict with the enemy, the home front has become the target of attacks in recent years, in a way which overclouds the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
"The patience, determination and stamina of the people in the home front will eventually determine our ability to complete the mission as has been determined by us and as we believe should be reached."
According to Olmert, "the government invested many resources in handling the home front over the past few years. I would like to take advantage of this situation to ask the cabinet members to exert any efforts in the coming days to provide essential services due to the situation created in the south, which may last longer than expected at this time."
The prime minister added that he hopes "all offices open call centers for the offices in the south and in the region. There are many communities beyond the rocket range which have been hit now, and this requires a special preparation by all government offices."
Barak: IDF to extend operation as needed
The government also approved the special situation in the Gaza vicinity communities. Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin said during the meeting, "The level of shock among Hamas' leadership is high. Nonetheless, they view the attack as a first step and are looking for a response. Hamas will respond and will even try to surprise us."
Diskin added that "a significant part of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip is content with the damage caused to Hamas, which has harmed and is harming civilians."
A senior defense official said in response to ministers' questions that "we must also prepare for the possibility of a ground operation in Gaza."
An IDF source said that "the second wave of the jets' attack yesterday hit dozens of underground launching pads used to fire rockets from Gaza. We estimate that 50% of them were damaged.
"This is one of the reasons for today's weak rocket fire. This doesn't mean that Hamas no longer possesses the ability to launch thousands of missiles, and this ability will be realized later on."
Defense Minister Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ahskenazi convened before the cabinet meeting. Barak said after the briefing, "So far we have reached good results in the operational area. We must know that it won't be short, it won’t be easy and we'll have to face whatever the future holds."
Before entering the cabinet meeting, Barak said that the Hanukkah vacation would be extended in Gaza vicinity schools.
"We have decided to extend the children's Hanukkah vacation and they won't be returning to school," said Barak. He added that "the IDF will deepen and extend the operation as much as needed. "We are embracing the Gaza vicinity residents from here for their stamina, while declaring a special situation in the home front."
Science, Culture and Sports Minister Raleb Majadele (Labor) informed the Government Secretariat that he would not take part in the weekly cabinet meeting, and called on the government to stop the escalation in the south and on Hamas to stop firing rockets on Israel.
According to the minister, "Extending the operation may lead to the collapse of the diplomatic process with the Palestinians and the Arab world."
Deputy Prime Minister and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said in response, "It's a shame that he didn't boycott the cabinet and Knesset meetings during the eight years when Palestinians fired rockets and mortar shells. If that's his opinion, he should not run for Knesset in the upcoming elections."