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No To Hamas Cease-Fire?

Defense Minister Barak: 'Little Prospect Of Peace Deal with Syria This Year'

'There Is Still Much To Do To Block Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons'

Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee Members Warn: 'Hamas Cease-fire Will Serve To Strengthen Terrorists'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Photo: Amit Shabi)

In a closed door briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has reviewed Israel's security situation on all fronts. IsraCast has learned that several MKs warned that the Egyptian proposed cease-fire with Hamas will serve to strengthen the terrorists.

:: IsraCast Audio ::
Syrian President Bashar Assad

Barak described the current contacts with Syria as 'feelers' being brokered by Turkey. He had identified five top Syrian priorities and in this order. First, Syrian President Bashar Assad wants recognition for the continuity of the Assad regime. Second, an end to the International Court inquiry into the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri which was apparently instigated by Damascus. Third, international recognition for a 'special Syrian role in Lebanon'. Fourth, significant Western economic aid for Syria. Only at the end of the list came the Syrian demand for Israel's return of the Golan Heights. So much for the Syrian priorities. Why might the return of the Golan be dropped to number 5? It may be that Assad already feels it's in the bag.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad

Iran: The Iranians were continuing full steam ahead with their nuclear weapons drive. Israel must do all it can to prevent the Iranians from acquiring the bomb and there was still a lot to do diplomatically. And Barak quipped: 'The last thing that helps is Israeli sabre-rattling'.

Lebanon: Hezbollah, Syria and Iran were the big winners in the resolution of the Lebanese election of a new president. In Barak's view the Lebanese government had caved in to Hezbollah's demands.

Gaza: The IDF was now waging daily warfare with the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. In the past six months, the IDF had killed over 300 terrorists. The Israeli counter-terror operations and the closure of the Gaza Strip from Israel has put Hamas under great pressure. Barak said: 'We identify signs of Hamas distress'. The Egyptians had now moved in with their tahadiya cease- fire proposal. Cairo was ready to start a process that would halt all terror activity including Qassam rocketing from Gaza. Their proposal was not linked to the West Bank. In return, Israel would call off its strikes in Gaza. Israel had replied that it was not ready to repeat the past experience of letting continue its military build-up to launch new attacks when it saw fit.

Hamas Terrorists in Gaza Strip

Hamas and the other terror groups would have to halt their military buildup during the cease-fire. Egypt said it was ready to take responsibility for stopping the Palestinian arms smuggling into Gaza. This was all part of stage one - if it panned out, Israel would then start lifting its siege by easing the closure of the Gaza Strip. Barak said this was the current situation and Israel would now have to decide whether to take up the Egyptian offer. In his view, if Hamas and the other terror groups kept up their arms build- up during the cease-fire, Israel would call off the deal.

However, several MKs rejected to the Egyptian proposal. Kadima MK Yitzhak Ben Israel said it would be a strategic mistake. Hamas and the other terrorists would violate the agreement from day one by continuing the arms smuggling. And Ben Israel a retired General asked: 'What will we do then start opening fire?' Instead, Ben Israel proposed keeping up the pressure on Hamas by 'various levels of military operations'. Another retired general, MK Effy Eitam called on Barak to restore Israel's military credibility after the 'snafus' in the Second Lebanon War. MK Israel Hason, a former Shabak Security official also argued the cease-fire proposal would be exploited by Hamas to regroup and again attack Israel in the future. So there is mounting opposition to the idea of a Hamas cease-fire on the basis that it will turn into a strategic trap for Israel.

The Defense Minister's briefing came against the backdrop of his ultimatum to Prime Minister Olmert to suspend himself in light of the current police investigation. Several opposition MKs called on Barak to make good on forcing Olmert out of office.

David Essing

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