Israelis reject Gaza truce, Olmert to accept it anyway

Monday, May 19, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is prepared to unofficially accept an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, even though Israeli military commanders and the general public insist the terrorists must be defeated.

Last week, Israel rejected the terms of the ceasefire deal presented by visiting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, as they failed to address ongoing arms smuggling into Gaza and the fate of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israeli political and army leaders warned that accepting the ceasefire in its current form would allow Hamas to regroup and rearm, setting the stage for far worse violence in the near future. It would also be viewed by local Palestinians as a sign of Hamas' strength in that rather than succumbing to Israeli military might, the group managed to force Israel to seek a cessation of hostilities.

Nevertheless, Israel's left-wing daily newspaper Ha'aretz reported that during talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was planning to signal Israel's readiness to stop attacking Gaza-based terrorists if they in turn stop firing rockets into southern Israel. If the lull in violence continues, Israel would then gradually relax its economic blockade of Gaza.

Olmert, Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were said to be skeptical about the chances of long-term quiet on the Gaza front.

Meanwhile, a telephone poll conducted among some 500 Israelis late last week showed that 56 percent of the public views even a temporary ceasefire with Hamas as unproductive and even dangerous, and would prefer to continue and even escalate the war against the terrorists.

A 49 percent plurality said they want Israel to target the Hamas leadership for assassination, and 51 percent said the time had come for a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza. However, 54 percent of respondents said they could not depend on Olmert to take the firm action necessary to put a stop to the incessant Palestinian rocket fire plaguing the residents of southern Israel.

The results of the poll, which was conducted by the Maagar Mohot Survey Institute, largely reflected the recommendations of Israeli army commanders, who have been saying for years that the government must authorize harsher military action in Gaza if it is to fulfill its duty to protect Israeli civilians.

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