Lt Gen Dan Halutz, the head of Israel’s armed forces, just resigned over the handling of the Lebanon campaign this summer. The confrontation has largely been seen as an Israeli failure.

There are reports suggesting Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, may be concerned that he will also be called upon to resign, but those close to him say there is no link between the responsibilities of defense minister and army head.

However, Peretz is forgetting that he was the one that gave the go-ahead for the war and that it was probably his recommendation that Israel react with force, to a comparatively minor incident (two soldiers were taken hostage). It is his ministry’s responsibility to assess every possible scenario and to recommend the best option to the country’s executive.

In the end, Halutz was only acting on the defense ministry’s decision and, as its head, Peretz should be ready to accept responsibility.

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Rockets from Palestine

November 26, 2006

It looks like the ceasefire goes against the interests of someone in Gaza, as five Qassam rockets were fired after the ceasefire in Israel went into effect.

The rockets fired, after the commencement of Israeli troops withdrawal from Gaza, is an open provocation. The firings were not mistakes, as they happened over intervals a few hours — the first one was fired shortly after 6AM, and another one came around 8AM.

According to Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ghazi Hamed, all militant groups in Gaza had agreed to the ceasefire. The spokesperson conceded that the rocket launches were a “blatant violation” of the ceasefire.

If Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas are not able to quickly reign in the violators, Israeli troops will be back in Gaza. Defense Minister Peretz has already warned of severe consequences. In fact, Palestinian officials must now deal with the problem publicly, even if it means arresting someone.

It has always been the concern of the international community and Israel that someone like Abbas would not be able to control all groups when such a ceasefire was needed, which is why Hamas’ election and cooperation was seen as a welcome sign by some, because of the influence the group yields.

After the devastating bombing of the Gaza Strip, which left 19 dead, Israel has had to respond to criticism of its military tactics.

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has said the civilian deaths were the result of a technical failure. Civilians were not the targets in Israel’s offensive, but other such events “may happen,” the Prime Minister said. In making these remarks, Olmert indicated that no change of strategy would take place and that further bombings would take place. However, the Prime Minister also expressed hope in meeting with Abbas and suggested that the PA chairman would be surprised once he knows how much Israel is prepared to offer.

In the meantime, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that the IDF will now have to get the approval of GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant and that the policy of shelling the Gaza Strip would be re-evaluated.

All this makes for a mixed message for the Palestinian Authority. While Olmert regretted the tragic deaths of Palestinian civilians, he hasn’t vowed to stop such events from happening again. Peretz has suggested that more caution will be used.

And Olmert has something to offer Abbas. But it’s interesting how the offer comes after a series of violent incursions into the Gaza Strip.