Olmert slams Barak
Photo: Emil Salman
Barak criticized by Olmert
Photo: AFP
Dichter. Smuggling continues
Photo: Yehuda Haviv

Olmert: Barak proves Cast Lead was worthless

Prime minister clashes with defense minister over Egypt-mediated truce talks with Hamas during cabinet meeting on situation in south. Minister Dichter says Palestinians smuggling advanced weapons into Gaza on daily basis

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday during a cabinet meeting discussing the ongoing rocket fire in southern Israel following the recent military offensive in Gaza.


"What the defense minister suggests proves that Operation Cast Lead was worthless, because after we crushed them (Hamas), you're proposing that we accept their conditions offered to us before the operation. This is the truth," the prime minister said.


The clash revolved around a disagreement between Olmert and Barak on the Egypt-mediated truce talks with Hamas, which were cut off after the prime minister demanded progress in the talks for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit's release as a condition for opening the crossings to the Strip.


Barak believes that the talks with Egypt must continue, but Olmert refuses to do so before progress is made in the Shalit matter.


The row erupted after Military Intelligence chief Major-General Amos Yadlin said that as far as Hamas was concerned the arrangement was put aside. Olmert interrupted him, saying that "as far as I am concerned, there was no arrangement with Hamas."


Several ministers reported that Olmert lashed out at Yadlin, but this was denied by the Prime Minister's Office. "He didn't lash out, he made a comment while Major-General Yadlin was speaking."


Olmert went on to slam Barak, saying that "we went to a lull in June 2008. The talks were managed by the defense establishment, headed by the defense minister. The defense minister's stand at the time, as it is now, was in favor of something vague, inexplicit, and not in writing.


"We agreed that on the critical point of preventing smuggling we would only trust one person – the Shin Bet chief. He would be our ruler. The defense minister said at the time that any smuggling would be answered immediately, and that any firing of rockets or mortar shells would be answered with fire immediately. In practice, reality developed differently.


"From the first day of the lull there were smuggling, and the entire period there were trickles of rocket fire. Two things were clear to us: The first, that if this wasn't the first lull Cast Lead would have taken place in June 2008. The second thing is that the lull led to Cast Lead. The question whether Cast Lead would have been moved up or vice versa is a legitimate question."


Dichter: Cast Lead achievements melting away

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter told the cabinet that Israel's achievements in the Gaza offensive "have been melting away in the past month."


The former Shin Bet chief added that advanced weapons were being smuggled into the Strip on a daily basis, while rockets continue to be fired at Israel.


"There is an average of five rockets and mortar shells a day. The smuggling of weapons from Egypt to Gaza continues, and not only are they bringing in weapons like they did in the past, but they are also bringing in advanced arms like antiaircraft missiles.


"It's crucial that we stop the smuggling. The Israeli response does not damage Hamas' control of the Strip or convince it to change its ways. Hamas is seeking to rebuild its infrastructures, and Israel must hit them. This is the most painful blow for Hamas."


Addressing Egypt's involvement in the attempts to stop the smuggling, Dichter said, "The allegation that Egypt has toughened its stance in regards to the smuggling is not implemented on the ground. Israel must examine the result, and when we examine Hamas' preparedness for a new round of fighting, the result is problematic.


"The cabinet must hold a real discussion. It's very important that the next government is presented with the insights of this government, so that it too can effectively fight the rocket fire and the smuggling."


The rocket fire continued Sunday morning, with four Qassams exploding in southern communities. There were no reports of injuries or damage.


On Saturday night, the Israel Air Force attacked an arms warehouse in the northern Gaza Strip and two smuggling tunnels on the Philadelphi route in the southern Strip, in response to the firing of rockets and mortar shells into Israel in recent days.


The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that all targets were hit. There were no reports of injuries.


פרסום ראשון: 03.08.09, 13:10
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