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Israel’s Barak looking at Gaza 48-hour truce plan ‘favourably’

Text by Clea CAULCUTT

Latest update : 2008-12-30

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak is "considering favourably" a proposal to institute a 48-hour truce in the Gaza Strip, his spokesman said. In New York, the Mideast Quartet called for an immediate ceasefire of hostilities.

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak is "considering favourably" a French proposal for a 48-hour truce in and around the Gaza Strip, “for humanitarian purposes”, his spokesman said late on Tuesday.

"This doesn't stop us in any way from preparing for a ground offensive," he added.

He made the comments as Barak was meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss the proposed temporary truce.

However, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer warned earlier that a ceasefire would allow Hamas “to regain strength, recover from the shock and prepare an even stronger attack against Israel.”

 

“There is no reason that we would accept a ceasefire at this stage,” he said. Meanwhile, Hamas warned that it was prepared to send rockets deeper into Israel if its military continued to pummel Gaza.

Calls for an immediate ceasefire

The Middle East Quartet, including the EU, Russia, the US, and the UN, called on Tuesday for an “immediate ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip “that would be fully respected”, following a meeting in New York.

The call was backed by EU foreign ministers gathered in Paris, four days after the beginning of the hostilities. "The European Union is more determined than ever to assist alongside the other members of the Quartet and the region's states in ending violence and re-launching the peace process," the Union said in a statement.

While experts question the EU’s ability to stop Israeli raids, Belgian Socialist MEP Véronique de Keyser told FRANCE 24 that the EU might grasp this opportunity to renew talks with Hamas which broke down in 2006. According to de Keyser, the EU missed a great opportunity to include the Islamic movement in negotiations when Palestinian parties agreed to a national unity government in spring 2007, a move "which implied that Hamas recognized Israel along the 1967 borders.”

Deafening US silence

As the White House refused to call for a stop of Israeli air strikes on Gaza, neither US President George W. Bush nor President-elect Barack Obama commented publicly on the assault.

On Tuesday, Bush urged Palestinian leaders to boost efforts to end the violence in the Gaza Strip by working towards a truce respected by Hamas militants.

Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, has not commented on the Gaza violence and will add increased Middle East tensions to a list of foreign policy problems his administration will face when it comes into office Jan. 20.

"If Obama continues to remain silent ... his silence will be seen and will have the operational effect of providing an endorsement for Israel's war on Gaza," said Paul Woodward of Conflicts Forum, an organisation aimed at changing Western policy towards Islamist movements such as Hamas.

According to Hall Gardner, professor of international relations at the American University of Paris, Obama cannot skirt the Israeli-Arab conflict for much longer. He says Obama will have to “address the moderate in the Arab-Islamic world and to show them that the US wants peace and wants to end the Arab-Israeli conflict as a symbolic step towards ending the war on terrorism.”
 

Date created : 2008-12-30

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