Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will wait to see in which direction the diplomatic process is headed before giving the IDF a green light to implement the expanded ground operation the security cabinet approved at the end of a tense, six-hour meeting Wednesday, senior sources in the Prime Minister's Office said. According to these officials, the waiting period would be "very short." The security cabinet, by a vote of 9-0 with three abstentions, approved plans to expand the IDF ground operation to the Litani, which at some points is 30 kilometers from the border, in order to take out the Katyusha launchers that have wreaked havoc on northern Israel over the past month. Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres (Kadima), Culture and Sport Minister Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor), and Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) cast the abstaining ballots.
The immediate, unconditional return of the kidnapped soldiers.
The immediate cessation of all hostilities from Lebanon against Israel and against Israeli targets, including the cessation of missile and rocket attacks on Israel.
The full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559.
The deployment of an effective international force in the south of Lebanon, together with the Lebanese army, along the Blue Line.
Preventing Hizbullah from rehabilitating its military capabilities, mainly by prevention of transfer of weapons and ammunition from Syria and Iran to Lebanon.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, at a press conference after meeting visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that the decision did not have to hurt the diplomatic process and that Israel had said from the first day of the war that it would work both on the military and diplomatic planes in order to secure its goals.
"Israel said that the faster the international community made a decision and helped the deployment of the Lebanese Army, the better," Livni said, adding that Israel had no "hidden agenda."
"We have no desire to continue in military operations to prevent the international community from acting. The opposite is true," she said.
Yishai said that the IDF told the cabinet it would take some 30 days to carry out the operation, but that he believed even more time would be needed.
Justice Minister Haim Ramon said after the meeting that the central military goal now was to significantly reduce Katyusha rocket fire on Israel, and change the status quo from what it was before July 12.
Ramon said that, as traumatic as the War in Lebanon in 1982 was, it should not keep Israel from pursuing its current aims. That war had been against the PLO, he said, while the current one was against Teheran, and would have great significance on the Palestinians and on moderate Arab countries in the region.
One of the suggestions that the cabinet rejected was a proposal to target Lebanese infrastructure. It was also reportedly agreed that the IDF would not enter Tyre, the largest city south of the Litani. Elite commando units have operated there occasionally since the war began.
AP contributed to this report.