Major-General (Res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, will leave for Egypt on Friday morning in order to discuss the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the limited cabinet decided Thursday night following a five-hour discussion.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during the discussion, "We are continuing to inquire on the details of a diplomatic arrangement with the Egyptians, and by no means with Hamas."
The prime minister added during the meeting, "We will stop terror and stop Hamas from rearming, without any compromises. I don’t want any time pressures or international pressure to dictate failing to meet these goals. I'm not stressed out, and the fighting in Gaza continues.
Thursday night's discussions were attended by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin. Gilad will return to Egypt in order to discuss the initiative's details and present Israel's stance in accordance with the guidelines agreed upon in the discussions.
After the round of talks, a date will be set for a National Security Cabinet meeting.
The negotiations with Egypt are ongoing as the prime minister and limited cabinet have yet to receive sufficient answers from Cairo. Olmert refuses to accept a renewed lull in an improved format. In other words, the prime minister will not accept any time limit for the ceasefire, as demanded by Hamas.
In addition, the limited cabinet demands that the Egyptians provide Israel with a commitment to prevent weapons smuggling which would help Hamas rearm.
The cabinet is demanding an answer on how Egypt plans to stop the smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, both through its sovereign territory and through the Philadelphi route tunnels.
The outlined agreement expected to be signed by Livni in Washington will only support the Egyptian commitment and perhaps help to prevent the smuggling before the missiles and other weapons reach Egypt. The cabinet, however, demands Cairo upholds its end of the bargain this time.
Livni and Barak agreed with Olmert that there would be no progress on the diplomatic route if these demands were not met. They also agreed that the fighting in Gaza would continue as long as there was no diplomatic arrangement on the Egyptian channel.
Livni goes to Washington, talks continue
Foreign Minister Livni left for Washington on Thursday night in order to sum up an outlined agreement with the United States intended to prevent the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Olmert approved the trip.
The Foreign Ministry was assigned to the task of working with international powers to secure the outlined agreement, which Israel hopes will prevent the arming of Hamas.
Livni made it clear before leaving for Washington that even after the agreement is signed, Israel reserves the right to respond with fire to Hamas' attempts to rearm itself.
The purpose of the agreement is to prevent the smuggling of arms from Egypt through the Philadelphi route. The plan is to locate in advance the seaways from the Persian Gulf, Sudan and other countries, through which weapons have been transferred – including Grad missiles developed in Iran and fired by Hamas into Israeli cities more than 20 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip. The agreement is also aimed at preventing the delivery of longer range rockets in the future.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramowitz is already in Washington, where he has promoted efforts to reduce smuggling by land and sea.
Talks on the issue are also being held with NATO, the European Union, and various countries as part of Israel's plan to secure international guarantees not solely reliant upon Hamas or Egypt.
Even after the decision to send Gilad back to Cairo, the discussions were expected to continue without Livni in order to agree on all of Israel's demand in relation to all relevant clauses, in order to prepare a list Gilad will be able to present to the Egyptians before a decision is made on whether to accept the ceasefire.
Earlier Thursday, Palestinian sources told Ynet that Israel and Hamas had agreed on all the general outlines of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative to end the fighting in Gaza.
According to the report, the sides agreed on the truce, on the supervision of the smuggling issue, on the crossings and on lifting of the blockade imposed on the Strip.