Cabinet unanimously votes to reject the ceasefire proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Israel rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza on Friday evening.
According to reports in the Israeli media, the Cabinet which met on the issue unanimously voted to reject the proposal.
“The security cabinet has unanimously rejected the ceasefire proposal of Kerry, as it stands,” Channel 1 News reported, adding that ministers would continue discussing it.
According to Channel 10 News, even though the ceasefire proposal was rejected, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would still prefer to avoid an extensive ground operation in Gaza at this time.
Earlier on Friday, the London-based Al Hayat newspaper reported that Hamas had agreed to a five-day “humanitarian ceasefire” on terms suggested by Kerry.
Kerry’s proposal reportedly includes some of the unprecedented terms proposed by Hamas leaders, but not all. According to the daily, the truce would not see any terrorists released, despite Hamas’s demands.
An official involved in the negotiations for a ceasefire told The New York Times earlier Friday that Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday.
As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending.
It was not clear if the final plan would be endorsed by Hamas, noted The New York Times.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal declared on Wednesday that Israel must accept his list of unprecedented conditions for a ceasefire in order for any truce to be declared.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet has rejected proposals for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and is seeking changes to the plans, a government source said on Friday.
[..] Most Israelis apparently oppose a cease-fire and are in favor of continuing to strike at Hamas. Despite 32 dead soldiers, at this writing, the interruption of operations at Ben-Gurion International Airport for nearly two days, hundreds of missiles being launched against Tel Aviv and northern communities (and not just in the south), the severe blow to tourism and the general feeling of depression – ending the operation now, just like that, as though nothing has happened, is not an option. Many cabinet members share this opinion, including a number of ministers from Netanyahu’s party.
“A cease-fire would be premature,” said one. “If Bibi ends it now – he’s finished,” announced a second. “If the bottom line of the operation is that Hamas comes out ahead economically, and every time it wants to get something from the Egyptians, it fires at us – Israel can close up shop now,” was the opinion of a third, who added: “The entire Mideast is examining us closely. Any demonstration of weakness now will bring major disaster down upon us in the future.”
Despite the great political risk, all signs indicate that Netanyahu is trying to arrive at a cease-fire, although not immediately and not under just any conditions. He frequently consults with two of his cabinet ministers, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. They sit together in the Prime Minister’s Bureau for hours. They are the moderate members of the deciding forum, and we can thus draw conclusions regarding Netanyahu’s intentions and preferences.
As for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is supposed to constitute a critical link in this chain – nada. He is excluded from these meetings. He shares his insights with the cabinet, when he bothers to attend. The premier and his foreign minister speak only when there is no alternative. Netanyahu is convinced that Lieberman’s supreme goal is not only to attack him from the rear today, but to oust him from the government tomorrow.
The increasing rapprochement between Netanyahu and Livni, reported here last week, continued more intensively this week. He often takes advantage of her experience and services. She is the only minister who (as foreign minister in Olmert’s government) was a signatory to two cease-fire agreements: those that ended both the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead.
Netanyahu, as head of the opposition at the time, didn’t have many good words for those agreements, which in fact didn’t hold water. But now, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and other foreign ministers, are regular visitors to his Jerusalem office, Netanyahu needs Livni at his side, for public relations reasons as well. In addition, the two usually see eye to eye when it comes to Hamas, not to mention on the matter of Wednesday’s scandalous and predictable decision of the UN Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry to examine whether Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza.
Signs of softening
In a discussion held by Netanyahu at the end of last week, hours after the Israel Defense Forces crossed over and infiltrated the Gaza Strip, he admitted that Hamas wanted to drag Israel inside, and that he had had no choice but to order the entry of ground forces. If the cabinet decides in the coming days to expand the operation, which is already in effect a kind of war, it will be against the wishes of the prime minister, as strange as that sounds.
Netanyahu is the son of a historian. An expert at learning lessons from the troubles of others. He knows that since the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel has not experienced any glorious, acclaimed or triumphant military campaigns. There are no longer any happy wars.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War, which began with humiliation and ended with a tremendous military achievement, sent the government headed by the Alignment (forerunner of Labor) home. The first Lebanon war sent Prime Minister Menachem Begin home, sad and depressed. The first intifada hastened the end of the government of Yitzhak Shamir. The second intifada helped to crush what was left of the political career of Ehud Barak.
The late Ariel Sharon is the only one who, in the recent past, benefited publicly and politically from a military campaign – from Operation Defensive Shield, in 2002, which contributed substantially to eliminating suicide terrorism from the West Bank – only because he was seen as the figure who fixed the damage wrought by his predecessor.
Netanyahu’s chances of being badly damaged by this war episode, the first in his three terms as prime minister (if we don’t count the bloody events caused by the opening of the Western Wall tunnel in September 1996) are greater than his chances of achieving political gain from it.
The security calm in Israel during the past five-and-a-half years, a period during which Netanyahu has served without interruption as premier minister, was the self-awarded medal that he wore on his chest with great pride. Until recently the mantra of “the quietest year in terms of security since …” could be heard regularly from him and his spokespersons. And the fact is that one can’t take that away from him, even if the glory was not entirely his but belonged to some extent to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who despises terror and violence and instructs his security services to behave accordingly.
At a cabinet meeting earlier this week, one could hear in the premier’s voice the first signs of softening toward the PA president. Ministers who were present believe that Netanyahu is beginning to consider Abbas part of a possible solution, rather than part of the basic problem. Several of his interlocutors in the past week got the impression from him that he feels that a successful conclusion to Operation Protective Edge, as far as Israel is concerned, would help in the turning over of a new leaf vis-a-vis the PA, which is today playing a positive role in negotiations toward a cease-fire.
People who speak to him say that Netanyahu greatly appreciates the fact that the West Bank has been quiet for the most part since the beginning of the operation in Gaza, which is claiming hundreds of victims, most of them women and children and innocent men. He does not take this for granted. If former PA chairman Yasser Arafat were in power, Israel would today be in the midst of a third intifada.
On the 18th day of the campaign, Netanyahu still had the support of over 100 MKs and the vast majority of the public. When it’s all over, probably shortly before the Knesset’s long summer recess begins, he will be forced to confront a series of political and public challenges, including the question of why he was willing to call for a cease-fire in the midst of the aerial operation, before the booby-trapped tunnels had been properly dealt with. Cabinet ministers and others said this week that the full picture of what was going on happening underground along the Israel-Gaza border was never explained to them, in all its seriousness.