JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not fully consult with the Israeli army before agreeing to a cease-fire with Palestinian militants two days ago, according to Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz.
IDF sources and several prominent Knesset members said the cease-fire will damage Israel’s security by allowing Palestinian groups to continue smuggling weapons into Gaza. They said the truce would provide down-time for militants to train for attacks against Israel.
The IDF has been petitioning for a large-scale assault in Gaza.
The information follows a series of WND exclusive interviews yesterday in which leaders of the four largest Palestinian terror groups in Gaza said the new cease-fire will be used to smuggle weapons into Gaza; reinforce and train “fighter units”; and produce rockets for a future confrontation with the Jewish state.
At a meeting today of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Halutz criticized Olmert’s government, saying the IDF was only partly involved in the decision to declare a cease-fire with the Palestinians.
Halutz told the Knesset the cease-fire would help Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, explaining weapons the past two days have continued to flow from neighboring Egypt into Gaza.
The IDF’s military intelligence unit would have recommended against a cease-fire if asked, military sources told WND. Sources in the unit said they were not consulted regarding the cease-fire.
Likud Knesset member Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said in response to Haltuz’s remarks the cease-fire agreement is not dealing with the “main problem of building a Hamas army in the Gaza strip.”
“There is an Israeli-Palestinian deal under way, which means that in exchange for a short break in the attacks on Sderot, Israel is giving a green light to the Palestinians to continue smuggling weapons and building up their missile threat from Gaza,” said Steinitz.
Steinitz was referring to regular rocket attacks launched from Gaza at the Israeli city of Sderot, located about three miles from the Gaza Strip border.
Likud Knesset member Silvan Shalom accused Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz of trying to preserve their seats in the Knesset. He said the cease-fire did not contribute to Israel’s security.
According to Shalom, the current lull in fighting is allowing Hamas to organize and obtain new weapons. He accused Olmert of jeopardizing Israel’s security with the cease-fire in an attempt to win back the public’s faith following repeated Palestinian rocket attacks launched from Gaza.
Since the cease-fire was agreed to Sunday, Palestinians in Gaza fired six Qassam rockets into Israel – four on Monday and two more yesterday.
IDF sources told WND the Israeli army on Sunday had identified seven militants about to launch rockets into Israel, but due to changed rules of engagement in response to the cease-fire, IDF forces were forbidden from taking out the rocket crews.
Olmert said Israel would exercise “patience and restraint” in the face of Palestinian violations of the cease-fire.
Olmert said he had faith the cease-fire would work and that it could lead to a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians. He said he would be willing to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for peace talks in the near future.
According to senior military officials speaking to WND in recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected multiple military plans outlined to him for a large-scale assault in the Gaza Strip that would include reoccupation of parts of the territory.
The officials said according to IDF assessments, the best options to stop the daily rocket fire from Gaza into nearby Jewish communities and to halt the regular smuggling of weapons from neighboring Egypt include drafted plans to retake parts of Gaza.
They said other options presented to the Israeli government for a large-scale Gaza assault focusing on dismantling the terror infrastructure inside the Gaza Strip have also been rejected by Olmert.
The officials charged Olmert has been restraining the IDF from carrying out what the army believes are operations “crucial” for Israel’s security.
IDF military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin and Yuval Diskin, director of Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services, both warned in recent speeches to the Knesset that if Israel doesn’t launch a major offensive in Gaza, Palestinian groups there will soon have military capabilities similar to Hezbollah’s in Lebanon.
Terrorists: Cease-fire means chance to reload
Yesterday, in a series of WND interviews, terror leaders in Gaza said their groups would for now abide by the cease-fire, which they openly stated would be used to re-supply their arsenals and prepare for a conflict with Israel.
“The cease-fire offers a period of calm for our fighters to recover and prepare for our final goal of evacuating Palestine,” said Abu Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, a Hamas-allied terror organization in the Gaza Strip responsible for many of the recent rocket attacks against Israeli communities
“We will keep fighting [Israel], but for the moment we will postpone certain parts of the military struggle,” said Abu Abir. “We will reinforce very quickly and rush what we are doing to prepare [for attacks against Israel] in Gaza and in the West Bank.”
Abu Abdullah, a senior leader of Hamas’ so-called “military wing,” told WND Hamas agreed to the cease-fire “because we need a period of calm to recuperate. This lull in fighting will not bring us to speak about peace.”
Abu Abdullah is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ declared military wing.
He pointed to Hamas’ doctrine, which calls for the destruction of Israel and which refuses to recognize the Jewish state.
“The political leadership (of Hamas) will never compromise on these values,” the terror leader said.
Abu Abdullah said Hamas has its own political reasons to respect the truce.
“We wish to show Islam as a ruling party is capable of leading the Palestinian people. Since Hamas was elected, we have been through only chaotic periods. We want a period of calm to prove we are not only a revolutionary movement but to show the Palestinian people our rule is without the corruption of (the rival) Fatah (party).”
But Abu Abdullah said the cease-fire would ultimately end in violence.
“All the Palestinian people and all the Muslims will launch a direct confrontation with Israel. This may come soon or it may take some time,” Abu Abdullah said.
Abu Luay, a leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, told WND Israel’s call for a cease-fire “proves our rocket attacks work. The Zionists know there is now remedy for our rockets.”
The Islamic Jihad leader said Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel would resume “at a time of our choosing.”
Abu Ahmed, the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, told WND his terror group would respect the cease-fire.
The Brigades, responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks, is the declared military wing of Abbas’ Fatah party.
“We will respect the cease-fire as the president (Abbas) has ordered us to do,” said Abu Ahmed. “We keep our right to respond to any Israeli aggression. Our group does not give up any of its ideals, which is a withdrawal of the Israelis.”
Would you like to interview the author of this story? Let us know.