November 19th, 2006
David Bedein Bureau Chief, Israel Resource News Agency Beit Agron Int’l Press Center 37 Hillel Street Jerusalem 94581 Israel tel. 02 530 0125 cell. 0547 222 661
DISSONANCE IN THE PM OFFICE
Following receipt of the following letter from Mr. Gal Alon, a special advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel, Israel Resource News Agency began once again to examine the issue of government protection for Sderot’s schools and homes.
Alon’s statement on behalf of the Israeli Prime Minister that the government is now embarking on a plan to protect all schools (why that will take another four months is hard to understand) contradicts the statement issued only last week by the Israel State Attorney on behalf of the Israel Prime Minister and the Justice Minister before the Israel High Court of Justice, where the representative of the government of Israel argued AGAINST any further protection of the schools.
Given the contradictory positions of Alon and the Israel State Attorney, both of whom act in the name of the prime minister, this reporter went to the press briefing after the Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday, November 19th, to determine who was correct.
The question was asked of the Israel Government Cabinet Sec’y, Adv. Yisrael Maimon: Will the Israeli government stand by the statement of the Israel State Attorney and NOT allocate any further funds to protect the schools in Sderot?
The answer from the Israel Cabinet Secretary Maimon was that “the government of Israel does not have any more funds to protect the schools in Sderot”.
However, seeing Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal was standing in the hall, Moyal was asked to comment on this comment that the government would not fund any further protection of the schools in Sderot.
Moyal did not look at all concerned, as he aid that he had just emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Olmert who had assured him that the government would cover all costs involved in protecting the schools.
Who is correct? Maimon or Moyal? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, concerning Alon’s comments about protecting other buildings in Sderot, the question posed to Gal Alon in this regard concerned the need for a “secure room” in each home, so that people would be able to “take cover” during a missile attack in their own home.
Such a system has existed for many years in Kiryat Shmoneh.
The fact that more than 1000 families in Sderot have no “secure room” in their home speaks for itself.
It would behoove Mr. Alon to familiarize himself with the situation in Sderot of what it is like to live under missile attack when you have no “secure room” in your home to escape to.
“Do Not Judge Others Until You Have Come Unto Their Place”- Ethics of the Fathers’
As this email was distributed to some of my friends in London, and as the facts seem to be forgotten in this debate started with Mr. Bedein’s long list of questions, I find it necessary to provide you with some more information.
It should be first noted that my work at the Prime Minister’s Office is focused on civilian issues, being part of the Director General’s staff.
Therefore, I cannot refer to the ongoing army operations in the Gaza Strip. However, I do hear a lot about the IDF efforts, side by side with the continuing launching of rockets. I think we have already learnt that stopping terror is not a miracle, though some of us are still diverting their energies against the Israeli government, rather than the Palestinian terrorists.
As to the protection of schools and kindergartens – the decision on what to rotect was indeed taken by “Pikud Haoref”, who is the professional authority for such matters. They know better than me, at least, what should be done (though you might challenge this assumption as well). As for now, the Israeli government has already spent 75 million shekels in protecting educational institutes, and the majority of the children there are studying in protected places: out of 24 schools, 19 are already protected (including all elementary schools), and the protection of the other 5 will be completed within days. As for the kindergartens, 56 are protected by now and the protection of all others (app. 85) is in progress, expected to be completed by March 2007. You might also want to know that between 2003 to 2006 Sderot and the other villages around Gaza have received 220 million shekels of extra government support through various channels. The Municipality of Sderot receives additional 10 million Shekels a year. Have a look on the relatively low unemployment figures there – due to a large investment in an employment schemes. Does that fall under the definition “abandoning their compatriots so heartlessly”, which is “nothing less than criminal”? As citizens of the Jewish State, I would be very careful before using such terms.
Disregarding populist statement, I guess we all understand that there is no 100% protection against rockets, whatever the government does and wherever it invests. The facts are that in four months the protection scheme of the educational institutes was almost completed (therefore, the title “Why won’t Israel protect Sderot classrooms” is slightly inaccurate). Having said all that, there are, and there will always be, risks for the children there. If you, or young Noam Bedein, propose to protect all buildings in Sderot, in Ashkelon and in any other place rockets are launched at – that’s certainly an interesting argument. We might also need to protect the streets, the roads and the playing yards. All – because the terrorists in Gaza continue to launch rockets, defiant in front of the IDF ongoing operations.
After providing some official figures, I would rather not continue this debate through massive email lists, especially after it started as a “na?” request for a comment from a journalist writing a news-agency story…