Barak and Livni Disagree With Olmert, Want Quick End to Gaza Fighting

Livni contends continued fighting could harm Israel diplomatically; PM: ending op would be missed opportunity.

Sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed Sunday that he continues to disagree with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni regarding the question of continuing the warfare in Gaza. The so-called troika met last evening to discuss the subject, and both Barak and Livni reportedly argued for ending Operation Cast Lead as soon as possible. This is apparently the reason Olmert wants to present the issue to the security cabinet, where the majority supports his view.

Livni contends that continuing the offensive could harm the deterrence it has achieved so far and damage Israel diplomatically. Barak objects mainly to inserting ground troops deep into densely populated areas of Gaza. For his part, Olmert told the full cabinet Sunday that stopping Operation Cast Lead now would be a missed opportunity.

Sources close to Olmert said Sunday, after the meeting of the three, that most of the security cabinet supports Olmert's stand or even believe the operation should be expanded. Olmert is likely to convene the security cabinet today to seek approval for an expansion of the operation.

Olmert's associates also said no one in the security cabinet supported Livni's position and that a few Labor ministers support Barak's position that an agreement should be reached with Hamas.

Olmert told the full cabinet Sunday: "The pressure we are exerting [on Hamas] must not be reduced. Anyone who broadcasts weakness will earn the good will of the global community for 12 seconds, but will not change anything essential."

Sources in the Prime Minister's bureau said Egypt has begun to relax its stance on bringing in American and European engineering experts to deal with the tunnels in the Rafah area.