Defense Minister Ehud Barak told France that the Israeli Security Cabinet will discuss Wednesday morning a proposal by Paris for a 48-hour truce and transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opposed the idea and said that aid is already flowing into Gaza. The Prime Minister has issued a gag order on Tuesday's Security Cabinet meeting on the situation in Gaza.
Barak already has expressed interest in the French initiative, which emphasized the need for letting humanitarian aid to cross into Gaza, but he denied that he supports the move. His aides explained that he agreed to bring it up for discussion after French officials called him twice on Tuesday.
Spokesmen for the Prime Minister objected to the language of the proposal, stating that the expression of the need for aid "is unacceptable [because] medications, blood and basic commodities have already been transferred to Gaza."
Nearly 300 trucks of medicine and goods have passed through the crossings into Gaza this week. Ten ambulances also have been delivered.
Previous ceasefire agreements, the latest being the June 19 agreement, never have been totally honored by Hamas, leaving Israel to be satisfied with only a reduction in the number of rocket and mortar attacks. Foreign media usually reported on the ceasefires with only marginal reference to violations.
"At the end of the day, the operation is aimed at restoring peace in the south. If this is honored, we will consider how to proceed," a government official told the French news agency AFP.
The Bush administration stated, "For any ceasefire to be effective, it must be respected, particularly by Hamas." President Shimon Peres insisted, "What we want is not a ceasefire but a stop to terrorism."
Many, if not most, of the Cabinet ministers who are not part of the Security Cabinet expressed opposition to a truce. Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) warned that stopping the counterterrorist operations would allow Hamas "to regain strength, recover from the shock and prepare an even stronger attack against Israel."
Industry Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said the Gaza operation must not be halted except for occasional four-hour pauses for the delivery of aid and to see if Hamas stops attacks.
The principal members at the Security Cabinet meeting are Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Yuval Diskin and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
A demand for the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit has not been brought up as a condition for a ceasefire.
Pressure for a truce has come from most of the world, except for the United States. The Quartet, which includes the U.S., the United Nations, European Union (EU) and Russia, has demanded an immediate halt to violence on both sides.