(translation by ISRAEL NEWS TODAY)

The Defense Ministry is opposed to the proposal to fortify all the residential homes exposed to Kassam rocket fire, at a cost of NIS 900 million. The reason is that it would be better to invest the sum in technological measures against rockets.

The proposal to fortify about 8,000 households in the western Negev against rockets arose yesterday in a special discussion headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which dealt with coping with the Kassam rocket threat. Defense Ministry Director General Gabi Ashkenazi was opposed to the proposal. “If you give me close to a billion shekels, I have better things to do with them than to fortify houses. It would be better to invest in rocket interception systems,” said Ashkenazi, referring to the Barak and Nautilus systems, which are intended to intercept various kinds of rockets and missiles.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who raised the possibility of fortifying the houses as one of the alternatives presented in the discussion, commented that the topic should still be examined. He also proposed to install a Red Color alert system against Kassam rockets in the area of Ashkelon. This proposal met with firm opposition on the part of the Prime Minister’s Office. Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office said that there is no point in placing tens of thousands of Israelis under a regime of entering protected rooms, and clarified that to date, only 12 rockets have fallen within the urban area of Ashkelon. “In my opinion this is a far-reaching move, and a decision on the matter should be made by the government. This is not a topic for a small ministerial forum,” said Prime Minister’s Office Director General Raanan Dinur, who was running the discussion.

In the discussion it was decided that the state would protect all the elementary school classrooms and preschools within an eight-kilometer range of the Gaza Strip.

Ma’ariv-NRG adds — Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mahatzri found it difficult last night to remain indifferent to the announcement of Defense Minister Amir Peretz that he accepted the security establishment’s proposal to sound the Red Color alert throughout the city Ashkelon as well, to warn against Kassam rockets falling in the area. “We can’t fortify the entire country,” said Mahatzri, “we have become a roulette country.”

A discussion held yesterday in the Prime Minister’s Office on the implications of the security situation in the southern communities was attended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Interior Minister Roni Baron, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Itzik Cohen, Prime Minister’s Office Director General Raanan Dinur, Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mahatzri, the mayor of Sderot, and mayors of the regional councils in the area surrounding Gaza.

In the discussion, Mahatzri said, “the decision should be made by the professional echelon in the security establishment and the government, who has the tools and the knowledge on the subject. However, it should be emphasized that this is a purely cosmetic solution. We can’t fortify the entire country.”

According to Mahatzri, “the Israeli government must act with determination on behalf of the security of all its citizens, including operations in Gaza. We have become a roulette country-once the roulette wheel stops in Haifa, once in Sderot, once in Ashkelon, and the day is not far off when it will stop in Tel Aviv. The state must provide a real solution for its residents throughout the country.” [.]