'Barak blocked PM's Gaza op decision'

"He himself says Gaza operation is unavoidable," vice premier Ramon accuses defense minister.

haim ramon hand on head (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haim ramon hand on head
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Vice Premier Haim Ramon attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday after the latter blamed Kadima's political problem for Israel's indecision regarding the Gaza Strip. "It is audacious and arrogant," Ramon said in an interview to Channel 2. "He himself says that a Gaza operation is unavoidable." Ramon said Barak has been blocking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from ordering an operation in Gaza. "He wants to appear as though he is conducting negotiations for a cease-fire, but says an operation is unavoidable." Barak blasted the government on Friday, saying if it wasn't conducting its affairs in the shadow of a Kadima primary, the decision on a Gaza truce would have been made long ago. Speaking at a convention of Labor branch secretaries in Tel Aviv, Barak said that "this government is incapable of making a decision about Hamas, the Syrians, Lebanon, Iran and the US. There is a shadow of primaries...all cabinet discussions are effectively discussions with the media." Concerning the Gaza situation, Barak said that eventually, he believed there would be an operation in Gaza, but that a "responsible leadership" must give a truce a chance. The Labor chairman also lambasted the government's conduct during the Second Lebanon War, saying that the government "set goals the army could not achieve." Barak stood by his decision to withdraw from Lebanon when he was prime minister. "I am proud of the pullout from Lebanon. Whoever thinks that due to this Hizbullah became stronger is mistaken. "Hizbullah was founded because of the very fact that we were in Lebanon, and today, Hizbullah has 42,000 missiles that can reach Yeruham and Dimona," he said, adding, "We all know what resulted from UN Resolution 1701." Labor MK Ami Aylon told the convention that "four conditions are necessary for embarking on a military operation - military preparedness, the readiness of the home front, public backing and international support." "You need public backing," he stressed. "Even [head of Kadima's steering committee Tzahi] Hanegbi said Olmert has no legitimacy." Earlier Friday, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz criticized the security cabinet for deciding against a massive ground offensive in Gaza in order to give Egypt more time to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. "The decision by the cabinet two days ago is problematic and is not good for Israel," he said in a speech at a pre-army college in the Negev. "We should have changed our policy regarding Gaza a year ago when Hamas rose to power. Today, we are a year late and we still haven't made the right move. I therefore didn't vote in favor of this decision in the cabinet," said Mofaz.