Israel rejects European, UN efforts for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff  

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected French President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal for a 48-hour ceasefire in Gaza when the two men met in Jerusalem on Monday night.

Sarkozy led a team of senior European politicians to Israel in the hope of achieving an immediate cessation of hostilities in and around the Gaza Strip. A key component of that effort appeared to be heavy criticism of Israel for its use of "disproportionate force."

Olmert countered the Europeans by urging Sarkozy to get behind efforts to make sure such an explosion of violence never happens again, instead of simply looking to end the current flare-up as quickly as possible.

Olmert said Israel cannot agree to any cessation of hostilities that leaves Hamas capable of continuing to threaten nearly one million Israelis with its rockets and missiles.

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu added in his meeting with Sarkozy on Tuesday morning that any future agreement must also prevent Hamas from smuggling additional arms into Gaza via the Egyptian Sinai.

Even Israeli President Shimon Peres, who typically sides with his fellow socialists from Europe, scolded the visitors for for playing a "double game with Israel."

"Not one of you would sit with your arms crossed in the face of missiles being fired at your country," Peres told the Europeans.

Olmert asked Sarkozy to help defeat an effort to pass an enforceable and immediate ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council, and instead get behind a US initiative that puts the onus for achieving and maintaining a truce where is belongs: on Hamas.

The Security Council was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the Arab-sponsored resolution, which has earned the vigorous backing of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

However, Ban and other UN officials expected the US to veto the resolution, and instead promote its own plan for a cessation of hostilities.

On Monday, President George W. Bush reiterated his support for Israel's right to defend itself by whatever means it deems necessary, and said Washington would not get behind any ceasefire effort that did not lay the blame for the violence on Hamas and insist on a total cessation of terrorist aggression against Israel as the first step.

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