Reports from the Middle East say the Palestinian militant group Hamas may be ready to agree to a moratorium on terror attacks. But the Israeli government is saying it would reject such a cease-fire, even if Hamas agrees.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said a short-term truce lasting only a few months is no substitute for disarming and dismantling militant organizations. He told Israel Radio on Monday that a such a ceasefire would be unacceptable because it would still allow militants to move about freely and re-arm and attack Israel whenever it suited them.
Mr. Shalom said the way to prevent the peace process from becoming hostage to militant groups is to break up the extremist groups and their infrastructures.
U.S. and Egyptian mediators worked over the weekend to try to find a way to end the violence that erupted after Israel and the Palestinian Authority formally accepted the so-called 'road map' for peace earlier this month.
Israeli media are reporting that even though they reject the peace plan, some senior Hamas officials are willing to consider a comprehensive cease-fire, provided Israel promises to halt targeted killings, incursions and military strikes.
At the end of Sunday night truce talks, Hamas issued a statement saying it is willing to consider an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
Egyptian officials are expected to host a meeting Monday of all Palestinian factions. The announcement of temporary ceasefire could come within 48 hours.
Addressing a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that if the militants agree to a ceasefire, Israel would, for the most part, respect it. But he was also quoted as saying there would be no ceasefire for what he termed 'ticking bombs' - a reference taken to mean militants about to carry out attacks.
Over the weekend, Israeli media reported that Israel may be ready to transfer security control in the northern Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority, perhaps as early as this week.
In addition, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz quoted sources in the government as saying Israel has also agreed to consider a Palestinian request to quickly expand the plan to include the Bethlehem region.