Israel has decided to call a halt to offensive action in Gaza. Prime Minister Olmert was explicit that Hamas had no part in the process that led to the decision. What isn’t clear is whether international pressure, especially from the United States, played a part in the ceasefire. In the past Israel has had to stop short of full victory in order to accommodate “world opinion” as expressed through the arm-twisting of the United States.
Significantly, the government did not insist on the primary condition as reflected by Israeli public opinion — the prior release by Hamas of Gilad Shalit. According to JTA:
Israel announces unilateral cease-fire
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel was set to begin a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip at 2 a.m. Sunday.
The National Security Cabinet voted Saturday night to approve the cease-fire. Seven ministers voted for the measure, two voted against and one abstained, according to reports.
The declaration came on the 21st day of Operation Cast Lead.
In a statement to the public and the media at 11 p.m. Saturday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the objectives of the operation in Gaza, which included two weeks of ground operations in the coastal strip, “were fully achieved and more so.”
Olmert made it clear that the decision to halt Israel’s operations in Gaza was unilateral, based on agreements sought with the international community.
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“It must be remembered that Hamas is not part of the arrangements we came to,” Olmert said. “These are agreements involving many countries, and a terrorist organization like Hamas is not and need not be a part of them.”
The prime minister said that he had received letters from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledging their assistance in ending arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.
Israeli troops will remain in Gaza for now, Olmert said. He added that if rockets continue to fall on southern Israel, then Israel would be prepared to respond.
Olmert noted that as he was speaking, a demonstration of hundreds of Israelis demanding that abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be held in Gaza, be released as part of any cease-fire.
“The intensive efforts to secure Gilad’s release began long before the operation, continued during it and will continue after as well,” Olmert said. “The Government of Israel is working on many levels to bring him home, and during the operation we carried out various actions to bring us closer to this goal. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, I will not go into detail. I will only say that Gilad is at the top of our agenda, and we do not need any prodding or reminding in this matter.”
Hat tip: Henrik Ræder Clausen.