Attacks may prompt rethink at UN

Over the last few days, divisions have emerged between Olmert and Amir Peretz.

olmert open mouthed 298. (photo credit: AP)
olmert open mouthed 298.
(photo credit: AP)
Sunday's deadly Katyusha attacks in Kfar Giladi and Haifa could change the way Israel relates to the US-French draft resolution at the UN Security Council calling for a cessation of hostilities, senior diplomatic officials said Sunday evening. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was expected to hold meetings deep into the night with the top security-brass to discuss the ramifications of Sunday's attacks, and whether to widen the scope of the present operations. "This may change everything," one senior official said. The attacks may re-open discussions in the government and in the IDF on whether to launch a final push to the Litani River. Over the last few days, divisions have emerged between Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, with Peretz favoring a push to the Litani, and at one point late last week instructing the army to draw up plans, but Olmert arguing that it would not be necessary since the missiles could continue to be launched from further north of the river. Olmert prevailed, and the issue was not even raised at a meeting of the Forum of Seven, Olmert's kitchen cabinet, that met Saturday night. However, government officials said, the recent events could change matters. Earlier in the day at the weekly cabinet meeting, Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, the head of Operations of General Staff, gave no indication that the IDF was planning a final thrust to the Litani to take up positions there before the UN cease-fire, but said it was interested in clearing out a buffer zone between 10 to 15 kilometers from the border. Olmert told the cabinet Sunday before either the Kfar Giladi or Haifa attacks that a vote on the Security Council resolution was not expected until Tuesday afternoon. He also instructed his ministers not to talk about the resolution, since what was presently being discussed was merely a draft, and said it would not be wise to respond to something that was not final. "When there is a final resolution, the cabinet will meet, discuss it and make decisions," Olmert said. It was clear that if Israel greeted the resolution too positively, the Lebanese would reject it out of hand. Lebanon's parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, a prominent Shi'ite who has been negotiating on behalf of Hizbullah, rejected the draft because it did not call for an immediate withdrawal of IDF troops from southern Lebanon. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, sounded undeterred Sunday, rejecting in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press the assertion that the resolution was "dead in the water," and saying the Security Council had not yet even voted on the matter. "We expect a vote on the resolution in the next day or so," she said. "And I think that once the international community has spoken you will see that the parties will need to come into line." Asked whether she believes the Lebanese government will disarm Hizbullah, she replied that "the Lebanese government, the Lebanese army, with the assistance of the international community, wants to extend its authority and make certain that arms are held by Lebanese security forces and not by militias. Those are obligations that they've undertaken not just to the international community but to the Lebanese people." One of Rice's top advisers, US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, held talks in Jerusalem with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Sunday, after spending the previous day in Beirut. A meeting he had planned with Defense Minister Amir Peretz was cancelled at the last minute because of the attack on Kfar Giladi. Olmert heard of the Kfar Giladi attack during the cabinet meeting and updated the ministers. He said it was fortunate that Israel was contending with Hizbullah now, and not in another two to three years when it would have received even more advanced weaponry and support from Iran and Syria. In reaction to criticism regarding the management of the war and the decisions made, Olmert said the summing-up stage of the war should wait until after the fighting ended. And in a related development, Olmert told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag in an interview published Sunday that European leaders should not lecture Israel when it comes to morality. "Where do they get the right to preach to Israel?" Olmert asked when questioned about European criticism of the toll Israel's offensive was taking on Lebanese civilians. "European countries attacked Kosovo and killed 10 thousand civilians. Ten thousand! And none of these countries had to suffer before that from a single rocket," he said. "I'm not saying it was wrong to intervene in Kosovo. But please: Don't preach to us about the treatment of civilians." Olmert also repeated, as he had said in a speech last week, that Israel was winning the war. "They are beaten, but it is not possible to completely destroy them," he said of Hizbullah. "Israel has nevertheless been more successful than any other country in the battle against a guerrilla organization."