From Debkafile, June 25, 2006, 11:15 PM (GMT+02:00) ....
Israel holds off immediate military action in Gaza for fear of harm to kidnapped Israeli soldier Corp. Gideon Shalit, 19, from Mitzpe Hilo ...
This was decided by a special security cabinet consultation called by prime minister Ehud Olmert Sunday evening, June 25. The session dealt with the IDF response to the Hamas-led pre-dawn raid from Gaza inside Israel, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, a third was kidnapped and 6 were injured.
DEBKAfile’s military sources say the cabinet’s options were narrowed by the slow reactions of the generals on the spot – Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant (Ariel Sharon’s former military secretary) and Brig. Aviv Cochavi - plus the chief of staff’s reluctance to act independently without deferring to his political masters. Had the IDF gone roaring after the terrorists and kidnappers - or even launched a blind pursuit without waiting for a decision from the policy-makers - Israel might have gained the initiative and been in a position to force the kidnapped soldier’s release by pinning the Palestinian terrorists to the wall.
Instead, an Israeli helicopter was lofted to shoot at empty ground and the defense minister Amir Peretz, upon learning that an Israeli naval Dabur missile-ship had opened fire, ordered the vessel to stand down in case of repercussions to the abducted soldier.
These responses were seen by the Palestinian terrorist groups which carried out the concerted attack early Sunday as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.
Israel has left itself with two chancy options - an unpredictable bargaining process and hope that the missing soldier can be first located through its intelligence and electronic surveillance branches.
Israel’s military tardiness reduced the deterrent effect of the threat defense minister Amir Peretz issued earlier to Palestinian terrorists that they and their leaders would pay a painful price if harm came to Corp. Shalit.
This affair recalls the October 2000 kidnap by Hizballah of three Israeli soldiers, Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Sawad, on Israel’s northern border. Then, too, prime minister Ehud Barak held back from expeditious action. Four years later, in the absence of any sign of life from the captured men, Israel was forced to pay dearly for their remains. Both Israeli premiers were loath to send troops back into evacuated territory – South Lebanon then, the Gaza Strip now.