Roni Sofer
January 14, 2009 - 1:00am,7340,L-3656089,00.html

Defense Minister Ehud Barak's statements regarding the nearing end of the Israeli offensive in Gaza have earned him harsh criticism from top Jerusalem officials, who have said that Hamas interprets such statements as Israel trying to find a way out of the fighting.

"Leaking details of ministers' private initiatives is irresponsible and regrettable," said a state official.

Other top Jerusalem sources said that such private initiatives, which are not sanctioned but the limited cabinet – namely Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – are detrimental to the future success of Operation Cast Lead.

"Such media reports are infuriating," a top source told Ynet. "Senior ministers making such public statements serve only to encourage Hamas and boost its activist, and that affects a million Israelis in the south and thousands of IDF soldiers deployed in the Gaza Strip.

"Any and all ideas pertaining to operational activities should be discussed behind closed doors, not through media headlines ."

Total ambiguity as to Israel's future moves must be maintained, added the source. "It is the only way to fully achieve our operational objectives."

Olmert, said another source, seems to subscribe to a similar sentiment. "We can only regret that certain political interests have resulted in certain notions (regarding the offensive) are discussed in the media, instead of by the small forums, where they belong."

Barak's outspoken support of the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire, claimed the sources, have harmed Israel's stance in any possible negotiation, since intelligence reports presented to Jerusalem indicated that Hamas sees them as a sign of weakness.


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