Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Peretz considers retaking parts of Gaza

By Aluf Benn

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will convene the security cabinet today to discuss the continued Qassam rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Prior to the meeting, Olmert will hold consultations with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, in what will be the first meeting of the two since a dispute broke out between them on Sunday.

Political sources in Jerusalem said they do not believe a large-scale operation to reoccupy Gaza, similar to 2002's Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank, will be approved in today's meeting. However, Olmert does expect to hear new operational plans from the Israel Defense Forces.

Peretz held a security briefing yesterday, and requested an examination of options for reoccupying areas from which rockets are fired in order to distance the fire from Israeli communities.

Peretz would like to avoid a long-term presence in Gaza, and therefore instructed the IDF to come up with "creative solutions."

A political source said proposals for an international force in Gaza are "worth studying," as "only a diplomatic agreement ended the Katyusha fire from Lebanon."

Olmert told his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, roughly two weeks ago, that it is too early to determine the success of the Lebanon model.

Olmert spoke with Prodi again yesterday, and expressed his opposition to the Spanish-French-Italian peace proposal presented last week, which includes the deployment of an international force. Olmert told Prodi there has been progress in talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Olmert's aides Yoram Turbovitz and Shalom Turjeman will meet today with their Palestinian counterparts, Rafik Husseini and Saeb Erekat. The Prime Minister's Office said Olmert has yet to decide whether to accept a proposal for strengthening the security forces loyal to Abbas.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met yesterday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. The meeting focused primarily on the situation with the Palestinians. Earlier, Livni met British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, and told her the best way to strengthen Abbas is to demand that the new Palestinian government accept the international community's three requirements: recognition of Israel, rejection of violence, and acceptance of prior agreements.

During the meeting, Beckett raised the British proposal for constructing "governance ability" in the PA, in order to prepare it for future statehood. Livni said Israel supports the plan in principle, but that currently a terror organization has gained control of the PA.

Livni and Becket agreed Syria is "not playing a positive role."

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