The long-delayed decision whether to accept an Egyptian-brokered cease fire with Hamas or step up military operations against the Gaza Strip came before the security cabinet on Wednesday, and despite reports that a majority of ministers favored tough military action, the decision was to give the cease fire talks more time.
The meeting was preceded by a Tuesday discussion between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in which the various scenarios were reportedly discussed. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin also took part in that meeting, from which no details were provided.
One government source said that while Olmert and Livni favor stepped-up military action before agreeing to a cease fire, Barak wants to send his top adviser Amos Gilad back to Egypt one more time for additional clarifications before taking action.
Although technically Olmert, Barak and Livni could take action on their own without seeking approval from the security cabinet, the source said that in the current political climate, where whatever decision Olmert takes would be criticized as having been influenced by his legal and political problems, he wanted the decision to have the backing of the security cabinet.
A number of cabinet ministers came out in favor of a widespread action before Tuesday's weekly cabinet meeting, with Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim, a close Olmert ally, saying "Israel must launch an operation against Hamas," adding that the country could not risk letting the Islamic group rearm itself "before the next round."
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann advised the ministers at the cabinet meeting (held on Tuesday rather than Sunday because of the Shavuot holiday) against talking publicly about whether or not there would be an operation, saying that the constant discussion on the matter reminded him of how Hassidim "wait for the messiah."
I actually think it was a prudent move in light of the current political instability and a rather limited political plan for the future of the Gaza Strip. It is suggested that the Kadima government will fall next week and the last thing anyone should want is a caretaker government making the kind of decisions a large scale military operations in the Gaza Strip would entail.