On the eve of the start of the Cairo talks on a proposed ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting that the Israeli government’s three top officials, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are at “loggerheads” over how to proceed. Yet while the article indeed describes a real disagreement on the question of tactics, it also paints a picture of three officials who, though they allegedly all want to reach a deal will each likely undermine the chances of the truce in their own way.
Livni reportedly sees the need to threaten a “harsh response” to any future attacks, along with a guarantee that Israel’s “freedom of movement” against those it perceives as enemies is not limited by any deal. Hardly an encouraging way to begin what America hoped would be an “enduring ceasefire.”
Olmert, on the other hand, seems opposed to the current deal in principle, and wants to continue the attacks in hopes of gaining better terms from Hamas. He wants to threaten to expand the operation immediately if the deal doesn’t give them everything they want. As for Barak, he’s spending most of his time preparing for that escalation. All three agree that they don’t want a deal with Hamas.
Israel has already begun to move down the path of escalation before the talks start, the most telling sign of their intentions is the decision to send Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad instead of an actual diplomat to Cairo. Israel is refusing to even discuss the diplomatic aspects of the deal, which would include the crucial question of opening the border crossings with the Gaza Strip.