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Tuesday, May 29, 2007     New Look for Why?

Israeli general: 'We've lost our fighting instinct'

TEL AVIV A leading Israeli general blamed his country's withdrawal from Gaza for the 2006 war with Hizbullah and warned that government inaction against continuing missile strikes will encourage expanded attacks.

"We may have no choice but to take Gaza again," former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said. "I'm not talking about ruling the city, but if we don't go in now, when they're firing at Sderot, we'll find ourselves with rockets in Ashdod."

"Forty years after the Six Day War, it seems we've lost our fighting instinct," Ya'alon said. "These last couple of years all we've been hearing is that we are strong enough to concede, strong enough to run away, or at least that's how it's being perceived by the other side."

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In a May 26 interview on Israel television, Ya'alon said Arab adversaries have been encouraged by Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the government's unwillingness to halt Palestinian missile strikes, Middle East Newsline reported. The former chief of staff said the Gaza withdrawal led to the Hizbullah war in 2006.

Military sources said mid- and senior commanders have expressed frustration over the failure to halt intensive missile strikes from the Gaza Strip. The sources said the government's refusal to order a ground operation has encouraged the ruling Hamas movement to expand targets in Israel.

During a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Olmert and Peretz defended their decision not to order a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. The prime minister, continuing to voice threats against Hamas, has scheduled a meeting of the so-called Security Cabinet on May 30 to discuss military and political options.

"There is no immunity for terrorists," Olmert said. "Nobody will have immunity. Simple as that."

Ya'alon warned against relying on the international community, including Egypt, to stop Palestinian missile strikes. He cited the 2002 military invasion of the West Bank that destroyed the insurgency infrastructure.

"The problem in Gaza won't go away, and no one can solve it for us, not Egypt, or an international force," Ya'alon said. "We have to get to the terrorists, get to their workshops and hit the infrastructure. We did it in Operation Defensive Shield and we had our reservations before launching that operation too. You have to be blind to think entering Gaza in unnecessary."

Military sources said the current military chief, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, has opposed any short-term ground invasion. The sources said Ashkenazi does not want a repeat of the brief and ineffective ground operations in the Gaza Strip in 2006.

"There is a crisis of faith in the current leadership," Ya'alon said. "Seeing how the defense minister has already said he intends to step down, I assume the rest will follow."

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