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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is against the next stage of ground operations in the Gaza Strip, a report by the Israeli media says.
The Israeli media reported that Barak expressed disappointment that Israeli security officials did not accept a French ceasefire initiative submitted before the ground operation began.
Barak has reportedly said that Israel would decide on Wednesday whether to go ahead with the next stage or to stop.
"The current crisis is a result of the absence of courage by Israeli decision-makers to end the ground operation at the right time," Barak was quoted by the Maariv as saying.
He explained that if US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convinces Egypt to assume the responsibility for preventing "arms smuggling" through its borders at the Sinai Peninsula, there could be a ceasefire. However, if Rice fails in her efforts, Israel might start the second stage of ground operations.
Barak slammed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for preventing him from sending Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Political-Security branch and Shlomo Turjuman, Olmert's political advisor, to meet with director of Egyptian intelligence Omar Sulaiman.
Barak revealed that Egypt refused a proposal by Rice to sign two drafts related to smuggling weapons over concerns that it might be blamed for any future development.
Tel Aviv is concerned that the scenario of the 2006 war with Lebanon would be repeated. During the war, Israel failed to achieve the goal of destroying Hezbollah's military power.
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