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Barak: Tough decisions ahead
Photo: Yaron Brener
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Diskin: Hamas interested in truce
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Barak: Ceasefire will not free Shalit
Defense minister tells cabinet that while ceasefire agreement with Hamas likely won't result in release of kidnapped soldier, move provides opportunity for genuine negotiations for his return
"Anyone who lives in the Middle East and thinks that the ceasefire itself or the opening of border crossings will provide enough leverage to result in the immediate return of Gilad Shalit would do well to come back down to Earth," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday as the cabinet met for its weekly session.  

 

"We're not deluding ourselves," said Barak, "opening or closing gates won't make it possible to retrieve Shalit."

 

However, said Barak, "the ceasefire provides us with an opportunity for intense negotiations over Shalit, and we will have to make some tough decisions."

 

The defense minister also briefed the cabinet on the easing of restrictions in Gaza following the truce. "The number of trucks and the amount of commodities allowed through will be increased," he said.

 

According to Barak the repercussions of the ceasefire remain unclear. "Only time will tell if the truce was a good thing or a bad one," he said. "It could all explode in mere days, which will render this whole discussion redundant. Or 'an accident' may occur, as (President) Shimon Peres says, and it will succeed. If we have a few months of peace, I wouldn't bemoan it."

 

Barak added that "regarding the Rafah crossing, the issue has not yet been resolved. The Egyptians know we have tied Rafah to other issues on the agenda."

 

In an answer to a question by Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, Barak said that yes, it has been determined that Rafah would only open with Israel's approval.

 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also addressed the ceasefire: "The decision is comprised of both risks and opportunities. We have said all along that this decision does not change our situation drastically. It may not last."

 

'Two attacks thwarted before truce' 

Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin, who also partook in the meeting, discussed the significance the ceasefire holds for Gaza's terror organizations.

 

"Hamas has an interest in maintaining the ceasefire and its two achievements: The lifting of the siege and the opening of the Rafah crossing. At this stage the factions are committed to preserving the ceasefire. The (Islamic) Jihad is willing to maintain the truce, but it has also reserved the right to retaliate if Israel acts," said Diskin.

 

"It's difficult at this stage to postulate how and in what way the truce will be upheld, what the response will be in Judea and Samaria and in what way we will act, and what can be expected on the issue of the ongoing weapons smuggling activity.

 

"I believe a government policy directing action on these issues and including the criteria according to which Israel will act must be upheld," Diskin added.

 

According to the Shin Bet director, the terror organizations planned to carry out two attacks before and during the ceasefire. "There were two genuine attempts at an attack, on the night before the truce. One
was supposed to be carried out against a fortified tractor with two car bombs, but one of the cars detonated prematurely at the home of a Hamas operative.

 

"The other was a complex attack which was meant to be carried out by the Army of Islam and was planned and approved by Hamas, which was thwarted by the IDF and the Air Force thanks to intelligence information. There are more plans for attacks, but it doesn't appear they will execute them".

 

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