Barak warns of Mahmoud Abbas's demise

Barak says more Gaza operations on the way, predicts things will get tougher before they get quiet.

tank gaza fire 224 88 (photo credit: )
tank gaza fire 224 88
(photo credit: )
Warning of the potential downfall of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah government in the West Bank, Defense Minister Ehud Barak rejected reports on Wednesday that Israel had agreed to a cease-fire with Hamas, while claiming that additional IDF operations in Gaza were impendent. "There is a continuous battle taking place in Gaza," Barak said during a meeting of the Labor Party executive committee in Tel Aviv. "This is not a reality show, and there is no reason to fight with a stopwatch. Things will get tougher before they get quiet." Defense officials said Wednesday night that as long as Hamas continued to use the lull in violence to rearm and rehabilitate its military wing, which was badly damaged during the IDF's operation in northern Gaza last week, additional operations would be inevitable. The officials said that the IDF was continuing to prepare for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip. Barak dismissed reports that had surfaced in recent days that the head of his Diplomatic-Security Bureau Amos Gilad had negotiated a cease-fire with Hamas during his visit to Cairo earlier this week. "It's not the end, the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning," Barak said. "Anyone who thinks that some type of cease-fire will do the trick is wrong. We will bring quiet to Sderot and the Gaza belt, and when there won't be rockets fired into Israel and smuggling is prevented it will open a path for different relations and life as neighbors." Barak said that Israel needed to continue to take steps to strengthen Abbas but at the same time warned of the possibility that "we will face in the future a less friendly government in the West Bank." Defense officials recently warned of Hamas's growing presence in the West Bank and the possibility that the terror group could overthrow Abbas's government over the next year. Earlier in the day and during a tour of the Gaza border with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Barak dismissed Palestinian claims that he was presenting an obstacle to the peace process and instead said that if Israel failed to reach an agreement with Abbas it would be because the Palestinian leader had failed to create a strong and stable government. "On the Palestinian side there is not yet readiness to make tough decisions or the ability to set up a judicial system, a government and security service," he said. "The IDF will continue to operate in the West Bank as long as the Palestinians don't act to ensure the security of Israeli civilians." During a visit to the Northern Gaza Brigade headquarters, Barak spoke with a group of soldiers from the Givati Brigade who had participated in last week's operation in Gaza during which two soldiers and over 100 Palestinians were killed. "We are facing additional operations here and these young soldiers will soon be called up to participate in additional operations and to win and that is what we will do," he said.