Defense Minister Ehud Barak is promoting a week-long "humanitarian cease-fire" in the Gaza Strip. In contrast, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert believes the military operation still has not achieved its goals.
Olmert is delaying a meeting with senior ministers in an effort to allow the military operations in Gaza to continue.
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Barak believes Operation Cast Lead has achieved its main objectives, first and foremost bolstering Israel's deterrent power. He does not believe continuing the offensive will bring further gains, but rather only operational complications and casualties.
Achieved its main objectives? Really?
Palestinian terrorists continued to attack Israeli civilian areas on Wednesday, firing 16 projectiles by late afternoon, including a phosphorous mortar shell that hit the Eshkol region.
In the latest attack, a Kassam hit an open area near a kibbutz in the Sdot Negev region. Earlier, two Grad rockets hit the Shfela region, in the central district, while Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and Beersheba were also hit. No one was wounded and no damage was reported in the attacks.
But the article goes on to say that the rocket attacks are "declining." Is that because Israel's deterrant power has been "bolstered?" Or because the terrorists are starting to run out of rockets and places to launch them from? If the former, then why are we now seeing test rocket attacks coming from Lebanon? Did they fail to read the memo? No, the fact is that Israel's defensive offensive has now reached the point where the enemy is starting to feel the pinch. It's own offensive capabilities have been weakened to the point where it will soon no longer be able to fire at will.
And this is always the point where Israel is pressured, both externally and internally, to pull back and give them the breathing room to retool and rearm. If that happens, they'll be back. They'll be back with more accurate and longer range missiles and more of them. They'll be back with the ability to send the people of Tel Aviv scurrying into shelters with 15 seconds' notice. And then what?
Barak is proposing the IDF cease its fire, hold its positions and keep the reservists under arms, and thus negotiate with Egypt and the United States on an arrangement that would include preventing arms smuggling into the Strip.
The defense minister is concerned that when U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office next Tuesday, he will demand that Israel immediately cease the operation. A tough UN Security Council resolution is also a risk.
Because these "arrangements" to prevent arms smuggling and weapons buildups during truces and ceasefires have worked so well in the past. Because that's not "also a risk." And so what if President-elect Obama demands that Israel immediately cease the operation next week? That's seven days away. A lot can happen in seven days. A hell of a lot can happen in seven days.
Livni insists Israel must end the operation without an agreement, enjoying its refreshed deterrence against Hamas. She also believes the mission cannot obtain any more major gains.
Meanwhile, senior IDF officers expressed concern on Tuesday that continuing the fighting would increase the number of casualties.
Is that a top level military assessment? Continuing the fighting may increase the number of casualties? Do they get paid for that kind of penetrating analysis?
It's ironic, that it's Olmert, who three and a half years ago was (yes, I know you've heard this before) "tired of fighting, ... tired of being courageous, ... tired of winning ...tired of defeating our enemies," who today is the one trying to push through this apparent wall of defeatism that pops up whenever Israel is on the verge of an actual victory.
Yes, I'm all too aware that it's easy for me to say, sitting here in the comfort of a safe place thousands of miles away and with no husband or brother or son on the line. But how many of these brave men and women are we going to continue to sacrifice, what can we say to the citizens of Sderot and Ashdod and now Ashkelon and Beersheva, when and if after all of this we just go back to the status quo ante, only ratcheted up yet another notch?
I have a question for Mr. Barak and Ms. Livni: when are we going to decide it's time to actually and decisively defeat those who seek our destruction? If not now, when?