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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Diskin: Israel trapped by restraint policy

Diskin: Israel trapped by restraint policy
Shin Bet chief describes current situation as catch-22 that leaves Israel
unable to defend against rockets. Ministers slam continuing restraint while
Olmert says response will only deteriorate situation

Ronny Sofer
YNET Published: 12.24.06, 18:59,7340,L-3344053,00.html

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin voiced his concern on Sunday during the cabinet
meeting over the policy of restraint currently being employed by Israel in the face of the continuous rocket attacks emanating from Gaza.'Ceasefire'

"We're trapped. If we don't respond - the Qassams will continue to fall and if we do respond against the rocket cells the calm will collapse," said Diskin.

Despite saying that he believes the issue to be of a predominately political nature, Diskin said that in his opinion military capabilities must be preserved and be ready for use if necessitated.

"We have two problems," said Diskin, "the rocket fire and the growing power of Hamas. It's a complicated and complex situation."

Five ministers expressed their support for changing the restraint policy: Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and ) Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai.

Peretz said that if the army identifies a cell, he can't say that no action will be taken. Dichter stated that Israeli must respond to the Qassam attacks while Mofaz said that a response should be considered "in the coming days."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the government's policy, saying that all the concerns and criticism were legitimate but that given the current conflict within the Palestinian Authority Israel's restraint policy gives it many relative advantages.

Olmert made clear the fact that he is not interested in a prolonged Palestinian blood feud, but that an Israeli response will allow them to try to end their infighting by uniting against Israel.

Diskin: Calm expected to last

During the meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni asked Diskin if Hamas has the ability to reign in the Qassam launchers. Diskin replied that "militarily they do have the ability but as an ideology, Hamas will never act against another 'resistance group'."

Diskin elaborated on the infighting in the PA, saying that while Hamas seems to have won the Palestinian street, Fatah is pleased at having held their own with successes against Hamas, something that Hamas is very concerned about.

Diskin estimated that for the time being the calm will continue both inside the PA and against Israel, but warned that if Hamas finds itself with its back to the wall it will resume its attacks.

"Neither Fatah nor Hamas want to go to elections now, and Hamas doesn't want it to come to a full blown war either," said Diskin, adding that the situation was chaotic, especially in Gaza where a single incident could push the region into complete anarchy.

Diskin also addressed Iran's influence over Hamas, saying that Iran is transferring funds to the cash-strapped organization, as well as taking in fighters for training in Tehran. Diskin said that these Iranian-trained fighters return to Gaza with advanced knowledge in arms and warfare.

"If Hamas isn't held back and continues down the current timeline - we will find ourselves with a single dominant force in the Palestinian Authority, a force that is backed by Iran," warned Diskin.

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