France presses Gaza ceasefire, Israel and US resist

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 |  Israel Today Staff

French President Nicolas Sarkozy plans to visit Israel on Monday to push for a 48-hour ceasefire in Gaza to give Hamas an opportunity to stop firing rockets at Israel without losing face, diplomatic sources confirmed to Ynet.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to travel to Paris later this week to discuss the French proposal, and tell Sarkozy why Israel will agree to nothing short of Hamas immediately halting all aggression against the Jewish state.

Reports early Wednesday indicated that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had voiced approval of the French proposed temporary truce. Barak later denied the reports after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Livni and Israel's top military commander made clear that it was unacceptable for Israel to stop firing first.

On Tuesday Olmert ordered senior government officials to not even talk about a ceasefire.

"We no longer talk about an exit policy, but rather, we are working in order to secure the Gaza operation's objectives," Ynet quoted the prime minister as saying. "As long as the fire continues, the Israeli operation will be expanded."

The Israeli position was backed up by the Bush Administration.

Speaking to reporters in Crawford, Texas on Monday, White House Spokesman Gordon Johndroe insisted that "in order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire."

State Department Spokesman Gordon Duguid reiterated on Tuesday that any ceasefire that is eventually reached cannot be one-side.

"It can't be a ceasefire in which one uses it to launch periodic attacks," said Duguid, referring to the fact that the recently expired six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and punctuated by regular Palestinian rocket attacks.

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