Bibi Tells Cabinet Israel Cannot Act in Gaza

By Barak Ravid (Haaretz)

Published August 23, 2011.

The cabinet voted Monday to refrain from any action that could lead to an escalation in the south and to cooperate indirectly with the truce Hamas declared on Sunday. So far, the truce has largely held, although three rockets did hit southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Monday.

The cabinet meeting began at about 11 P.M. Sunday and adjourned at about 3 A.M. Monday morning. The ministers were briefed by senior defense officials, but were not asked to approve any further military action. Instead, the meeting focused on ways to contain the situation and prevent an escalation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak offered various arguments for why Israel must exercise restraint - its international isolation, the fact that the Iron Dome rocket interception system still offers only partial defense, and the fear of worsening the diplomatic crisis with Egypt. Under these circumstances, Netanyahu said, all-out war against Hamas-run Gaza would be inadvisable.

Prior to the cabinet meeting, several ministers had called for a harsher Israeli response to the rocket fire; and that is largely what prompted Netanyahu to convene the cabinet Sunday night: By having the full cabinet approve the decision to refrain from further military action, he hoped to block criticism from within the government.

What emerged most clearly from Netanyahu’s and Barak’s statements to the cabinet was that Israel lacks the international legitimacy needed for a large-scale operation in Gaza. The diplomatic crisis with Egypt further constrains Israel’s freedom of action.

For more, see Haaretz.com



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