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Tuesday, March 29, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israeli officers: Restraint policy hurts deterrence

TEL AVIV — Senior Israeli military officers warned that the government's restraint policy was encouraging missile, mortar and rocket attacks by Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies.


They said Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ruled out any major ground operation in the Gaza Strip for fear of angering the United States.

"Hamas is testing us and sees that we won't respond," an officer said. "This only pushes them to attack us more."

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The officers said the General Staff has urged the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order an invasion of the Gaza Strip. They said Israel's failure to respond to the barrage of Palestinian rocket fire was eroding the nation's deterrence.

"Both Barak and Netanyahu are against a major operation, but it is clear that the defense minister is calling the shots," a military source said.

As a result, the General Staff has quietly agreed to a mediation effort to end or at least reduce Palestinian missile attacks. The sources said mediation attempts were taking place through governments as well as Israeli and Palestinian intermediaries.

"Under the current circumstances, the most important thing is to resume some sort of normalcy," the source said.

The sources said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has not taken a firm position on a response to the Palestinian missile fire. They pointed out that Gantz has been chief of staff for about a month and was not ready to submit an assessment that differed from Barak.

In 2008, Israel and Hamas fought a 23-day war in which much of the Islamic military was destroyed. Throughout 2009 and 2010, Hamas was said to have restrained Palestinian militias from rocket fire.

"We are seeing all of the gains from Operation Cast Lead [Hamas war] disappear," another military source said.

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