(cross posted at kickin it with cg)
Today has been an optimistic day with regard to furthering peace in the Middle East. First, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for a week-long ceasefire in Gaza to allow humanitarian assistance into the strip.
This did not go over well. Officials close to the outgoing Olmert blasted Barak. “The remarks constitute a lack of national responsibility,” the officials said. “Ministers speaking to the media about the conduct of the war touching on cease-fire initiatives are very grave.”
Reports emerged that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was avoiding a meeting with his two key ministers in order to allow the military operation to continue. Olmert was not planning to convene the war cabinet overnight so as to again avoid confronting the issue with the ministers, both of whom support a ceasefire.
Then later Hamas has agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues.
An Israeli envoy will meet Egyptian mediators in Cairo tomorrow after a Hamas delegation concludes talks on an Egyptian truce proposal.
Olmert told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos that he wanted to bring the operation in the Gaza Strip to an end if Hamas agreed to the Egyptian proposal.
At the crux of the cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.S. is supervision to halt the smuggling of arms from Iran, through the Persian Gulf to Sudan and other countries, and finally to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramowitz, will meet with State Department officials Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Hale in Washington today, as well as officials from the White House, Defense Department and U.S. intelligence agencies, in an effort to reach a written guarantee that the United States will act more extensively against the smuggling.
If an agreement is formulated, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will travel to Washington to sign the agreement.
These seem like positive signs to me, although it seems that majority of both the Israeli and US public do support the Israeli military operation in Gaza. Maybe this will change with an end of the hostilities.
Let’s all hope for a end on the attacks in the coming days and for an Obama administration to bring on an era of peace in the Middle East.
[UPDATE] Egyptian TV is reporting that:
Israel has agreed in principle to a Gaza truce plan, but has some clarifications that have yet to be reviewed by Hamas.
Senior defense official Amos Gilad on Thursday returned from the truce talks in Egypt and was to brief Defense Minister Barak, prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on his meetings with Egyptian Intelligence head Omar Suleiman.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday updated U.S. Secretary of State Rice on the situation in Gaza and said Israel is interested in utilizing the Egyptian channel to bring about a cease-fire and an end to weapons smuggling in order to end the operation, said a statement from the office.