Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Addresses Foreign Press
Israel News Agency Staff
11.....Israel Government Press Office Director Danny Seaman coordinated the following
news conference in Jerusalem today between Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and
members of the foreign press based in Israel.
Seaman good morning, Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, thank
you for being here today. I want to thank Israel Prime Minister Olmert, for making
this meeting with the Foreign Press. Usually, we have an annual reception together
with the Foreign Press Association, which happens around the New Year. I donít
know what New Year it is today, but weíre more than happy to have you meet with
responded: "You want to postpone it?"
Seaman stated: "No, no, no. Weíre more than happy to have it. We also usually
have it after a reception. I think itís a little too early for cocktails, even
for the members of the media, but the fact that we can meet with you today is,
I think, those of you among the veterans Iím sure you see some faces here that
youíre familiar with, weíve known you for many years in different capacities and
weíre very happy to have you here as Prime Minister today. Mr. Prime Minister,
there are 350 foreign offices that have a permanent representative in the State
of Israel. Certainly, one of the largest foreign press corps in the world. If
you take per square kilometer and per capita, absolutely the largest foreign press
corps in the world, on any given day, is here in Israel. So without any further
ado, I would like to turn over to Daniel Blumenthal, representative of the Foreign
Press Association, for a few remarks and then turn it over to you."
Blumenthal said good morning. Mr. Prime Minister, the Foreign Press Association
celebrates this year 50 years of its existence. Hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands
of foreign journalists worked in Israel, covered from Israel and from the territories,
from the Palestinian territories, the events here of the last 50 years of history.
As you may guess, itís very interesting to be a foreign press journalist from
here and we hope we can have you as a guest - you and the future Prime Ministers
of Israel forever, every year in an event. Thank you very much.
Olmert responded: "Mr. Seaman, the Head of the Government Press Office, Mr.
Blumenthal, distinguished members of the press, Iím delighted to have this meeting
with you. And I apologize if itís too early for some of you in the morning. Iíll
make a short statement and then if youíll have questionsÖ The main purpose of
the Israeli operation in Gaza is twofold: One, is to take measures in order to
allow the release of the Israeli kidnapped soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, and
the other is to stop the Kassam missiles from being shot at Israeli civilians
in the south part of the country. Since about ten months ago, Israel pulled out
entirely from Gaza back into the territory which is recognized by the international
community as part of the State of Israel.
other words, there are not any occupying forces in Gaza since August of last year.
And since then, there wasnít one day of rest for the people of Israel that live
in the south part of our country. Almost on a daily basis, there are missiles
shot at them, with one purpose in mind of those who are doing it. This is to kill
innocent Israeli civilians in schools, or in their homes or in the streets as
they are trying to do every day. This is something that is entirely intolerable.
Israeli people like every other people, deserve to be protected.
Palestinians deserve to be protected and the dream that we had when we pulled
out from Gaza, was that we will be able to start a new phase in the relations
between Israelis and Palestinians. I personally remember talking with Palestinians
as well as with others about building together with Palestinians and with private
entrepreneurs, from outside of the Middle East, industrial parks in the Gaza area
with Israeli investments, that would have helped create new economic opportunities
for the people living in Gaza.
people of Gaza deserve to have a different quality of life. They deserve to have
a government which takes care of their needs, of their problems, of their opportunities,
of their chances. And what we wanted was to have a quiet and peaceful border between
us and the Palestinians that would allow us and them to develop the potential
that we both have at this part of the world. Unfortunately, as I said, there wasnít
one day of rest for Israelis which were attacked repeatedly by the missiles coming
from Gaza aiming at the lives of innocent people. And at some point, we had to
stop it. And the main purpose of this military operation is a) as I said to help
release the Israeli kidnapped soldier, which is a victim of a terrorist action,
in the territory of the State of Israel by terrorists that crossed the border
for the purpose of provoking a military confrontation. And the other purpose is
to stop the Kassam missile shooting against Israeli people.
havenít set a particular timetable for this operation. It will continue in places,
in times, in different measures that will suit the purposes that were outlined.
Thank you very much."
Seaman then announced: "Weíre taking questions now from the members of the
Prime Minister, we usually take the first question from the board, but I think
that today, weíll all agree that the first question weíll give in recognition
of last nightís World Cup victory to Italy, the first question will go to RAI
Television, the official State Television of Italy, sitting right up here, if
you please, over there in the back. Those of you who want to ask questions, Sharon
is in the back, point out to her, sheíll call you up on time. Please identify
yourself by name and organization for the Prime Minister, please.
Seaman - weíre taking questions now from the members of the media. Mr. Prime Minister,
we usually take the first question from the board, but I think that today, weíll
all agree that the first question weíll give in recognition of last nightís World
Cup victory to Italy, the first question will go to RAI Television, the official
State Television of Italy, sitting right up here, if you please, over there in
the back. Those of you who want to ask questions, Sharon is in the back, point
out to her, sheíll call you up on time. Please identify yourself by name and organization
for the Prime Minister, please.
Claudio Pagliara: Claudio Pagliara, the Bureau Chief, Middle East Bureau Chief
of RAI Italian Television, based in Jerusalem. Prime Minister, thank you very
much Mr. Seaman, thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to pose
two questions. One is not serious, the second, yes. So we know that you are big
football supporter. I would like to know if you enjoy as most of the Israelis
yesterday, the victory of Italy. And the second question, we heard criticism in
the international community about the Gaza Strip operation and European Union
asked Israel to restrain and told Israel not to use disproportional force in the
Gaza Strip. How do you react to this remark? Thank you very much.
Olmert: First of all, allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate the Italian
people for this great victory yesterday in the World Cup. Indeed, like hundreds
of millions across the world, I was anxiously watching the game through television.
I was invited to attend the game, but I thought that at this particular time considering
the constrains with which I have to deal in the Middle East and in Israel, the
most that I can afford myself is to watch it at home with friends rather than
to go to Germany to watch a game between two friendly nations, that I like both
and that I respect both. I was amazed by the way, at the brilliance of the shooters
from Italy of the penalties. Considering the record that Italy used to have in
shooting penalties in the final cup games, in the World Cup in the past, this
was a great improvement and it was I think even more impressive than the use of
the head by Zinedine Zidane, not against the ball which was quite interesting,
but against the chest of Materazzi and it was a very sad moment in the games.
in spite of this low point, the victory was done by the tenacity and the wisdom
of the players and the coach, Mr. Lippi, and when I saw the Italian flags waved
with great cheers in the big squares of Rome, I felt a lot of emotion for the
Italian people and I congratulate you and your country. You asked me about the
comment made by the European Union with regard to the measures taken by Israel.
What exactly is the criterion by which one measures the proportion of more than
a thousand missiles shot at innocent civilians against the measures that were
taken by the State of Israel in the last few days?
one measure the anxiety, the fear, the shocks, the lack of security of tens of
thousands of people living day-in and day-out for almost a year under the constant
threat of missiles shot at them? When was the last time that the European Union
condemned this shooting and suggested measures, effective measures to stop it?
We were waiting and waiting and waiting and everyone knows that Israel pulled
out entirely from Gaza precisely in order to try and establish a new basis of
cooperation and understanding with the Palestinians, when there can be no claim
for any territory by the Palestinians in the south part of the country. And the
response was terror and terror and terror and terror again.
at some point Israel had no choice but to take some measures in order to stop
this threat. And I think that this is the desire of the Palestinian people as
well. I have no doubt in my mind that the majority of the Palestinian people sympathize
with the demand of Israel that this violence will be stopped. They are victims
of it - we are victims of it. They want to stop it - we want to stop it. They
donít know want to be held captives by the terrorist organizations which have
no regard for the basic needs of the Palestinian people and therefore this is
something that all the countries that care for us and for the Palestinians, must
join forces together in order to stop. And thatís basically what we are doing
and I think that once the Kassam shooting will be stopped and the terrorist actions
against innocent civilians will be halted altogether, there will be no need for
any Israeli action in Gaza.
Seaman: The second question to Daniel Blumenthal of the Foreign Press Association.
Mr. Prime Minister, the Israeli presence in Gaza, the fact that the Kassam rockets
donít stop even when the army is there, and the international pressure, will it
allow you to implement with a permanent plan that was the main item in your elections
Olmert: The use of violence is always a threat to any peace progress. And in this
respect, of course the continued shooting of Kassam missiles against the Israeli
population in the south part of the country is a threat to any peaceful reality
in the south part, and consequently also in the east front between us and the
Palestinians. The concept of realignment is basically a concept of gradually separating
the Israelis and the Palestinians in order to allow them to fulfill their dreams
in a contiguous territory in the West Bank and establish their own independent
Palestinian State and allow the State of Israel to practice its right for secured
borders without violence and without a threat of continued terror. If the Kassam
shooting will continue, weíll have to continue to take measures to stop it, and
again this is something that Iím sure both the Palestinian population and us are
very much against because we want to separate in a friendly manner and to live
along side each other, both for them and for us in a peaceful way.
if the terrorist organizations will impose a violent confrontation, Iím afraid
that both Israelis and Palestinians will have to bear the consequences but that
canít stop the inevitable historical process of separation between Israelis and
Palestinians. It is the only solution for the Palestinians. It is the only way
in which Palestinians can ultimately realize their dreams of a Palestinian State
and this is the only way in which we can secure ultimately the borders that will
provide the necessary protection for the Israelis. The dream that I have is the
same dream that motivates President Bush, the dream of a two-state solution, two
states that live alongside each other without terror and without violence.
Seaman: On the right, yes. Please introduce yourself. From Al Arabia news channel.
Mr. Prime Minister, my question is, Khalid Mashal, from what we are hearing now,
is backing a deal with Israel concerning the kidnapped soldier. So in light of
the fact that the military operation is not achieving its aims; missiles are falling
on the southern side of Israel as well as there is nothing new regarding the soldier,
so why are you refusing very strongly to negotiate with Hamas or with anybody
else, like Israel did before with Hizbullah, for example through the Germans?
Olmert: Khalid Mashal is a terrorist with blood on his hands. Heís not a legitimate
partner for anything. Heís the head of an organization which openly, publicly
and officially calls for the liquidation of the State of Israel, and therefore
he is not a partner and he will not be a partner, and I will not negotiate with
Hamas. I repeat, I want it to be very clear. I donít negotiate with Hamas, I did
not negotiate with Hamas, and I will not negotiate with Hamas. I will not release
prisoners to trade off the Corporal Gilad Shalit to Hamas. The idea that some
people have that Hamas can be a partner is an outright threat to the only chance
that we have to come to terms with moderate Palestinians that are opposed to terror.
To negotiate with Hamas today, to surrender to their demands to trade off prisoners
with Corporal Shalit means that you donít need more moderate guys like Abu Mazen,
who is opposed to terror, because at the end of the day, the upper hand will always
be that of the terrorists and the killers and those who support violence and I
think that this is bad advice, this is a bad move. I will not take it, I will
not negotiate with Hamas. I will negotiate in the future with Abu Mazen if Abu
Mazen will have the power to exercise his authorities as the Chairman of the Palestinian
Authority in the Palestinian community.
Seaman: On the left, Steve, introduce yourself.
Gutkin: Steve Gutkin from the Associated Press. Given whatís happened in the last
year since the Israeli withdrawal, the rise of Hamas, the rocket attacks, how
does this affect your plans for withdrawing from the West Bank and does it make
you any less committed to the idea of a ďhitkonsutĒ, a realignment?
Olmert: I canít tell you that growing violence and the rise of Hamas has made
life easier, but for any of us in the Middle East. I think itís a bad time and
itís a bad message, and this is something that primarily the Palestinians will
have to deal with. Do they prefer, they will have to answer these questions, do
they prefer to be ruled by a government of terror, by a government which is absolutely
dominated by terrorist group that is boycotted by the entire world or do they
want to be governed by a civilized government that is prepared to make compromises
on the basis of reasonable agreements that can lead towards peace between us and
the choice of the Palestinian people. Now, I made my plans clear to the Israeli
constituents before the elections, after the rise of Hamas, so I was aware of
course of the Hamas government and their victory in the Palestinian elections,
but I still think that the desire of Israelis to achieve two goals, to achieve
secured borders for the people of Israel and to separate from the Palestinians
on the one hand and at the same time to allow the Palestinians to have a contiguous
territory where they can fulfill their dream of having a Palestinian State, that
this is still the most important, the most powerful, the most challenging idea
that will dominate the near future of the Middle East. And therefore I havenít
changed my basic commitment to the realignment plan. I know that this will be
difficult and it is difficult, but I am prepared to oppose those who are threatening
the peaceful future of the Middle East, and I am absolutely determined to carry
on in order to ultimately separate from the Palestinians and to establish secure
borders that will be recognized by the international community and at the same
that will allow the Palestinians to have a contiguous territory where they can
have their own independent Palestinian State.
Seaman: On the right, please introduce yourself. Gregorous Monel: Gregorous Monel,
Comersant from Moscow, Russia. Mr. Prime Minister, several minutes ago you said
that one of the purposes of the operation in the Gaza Strip is to free Corporal
Gilad Shalit. How is the operation in the north part of Gaza Strip connected to
fate of Israel soldier and how exactly can it help to make him free?
Olmert: I said that there are two purposes. One is to help release the Israeli
corporal, Gilad Shalit and the other is to help stop the shooting of Kassam missiles.
And I donít think that I have to sit here as a military analyst to explain to
you precisely how each moves in which section of territory and the use of particular
weapons is helpful to achieve one of these two goals. But what we have been doing
in the last few weeks, was to try and a) stop the Kassam rockets, Kassam missiles
from being shot at Israeli individuals and at the same time to help release the
Israeli corporal at the lowest possible intervention with the lives of the Palestinian
entirely aware of the difficulties that are created to the Palestinian people
and there is nothing that I want less than to disturb them. We have no policy
of punishing the Palestinian population. I think an overwhelming majority of the
Palestinians deep down identify with the same desire that the Israelis have which
is to live without a threat of violence which they are faced with on a daily basis.
And they deserve to live without violence. They deserve to live without this threat,
they deserve to live without hearing the shooting and the noise of tanks and planes
over their heads, just as the Israelis deserve to have it. But at the end of the
day, itís in the hands of the Palestinian terrorist organizations who against
the better interest of their own people are using these missiles in order to try
and threaten the Israeli people.
Seaman: On the right again. Gideon Lichfield: Gideon Lichfield from The Economist.
Youíve already said that the operation in Gaza doesnít have a particular time
limit. Israeli actions up till now donít seem to have deterred the people who
fire Kassam rockets and as any journalist who goes to Gaza can attest, Israeli
actions usually increase popular support for the people who fire the rockets and
there are potentially as many makers and firers of rockets in Gaza as there are
people in Gaza, so what is your exit strategy?
Olmert: Iím not certain sir, that I share with you the judgment about the outcome
of this operation at this point in life. As I said, it will take time. I will
remind you that more than a year ago, it was the Hamas that ultimately expressed
its desire to have a hudna and to stop terror and terrorist actions against Israelis.
It was not Israel and I think they had a good reason to want to do it after losing
some of the leaders at that time. So I think the measures that we take which are
very careful and very restrained and are attempting to minimize the difficulties
to the Palestinian population, which is not to be blamed for the violence of these
terrorist organizations. These are effective measures and it may take some more
time, but Iím hopeful that at the end of the day, the dominant forces within the
Palestinian community will impose the end and the cessation of these violence
actions by Palestinians which will then allow Israel to restore the situation
to what it was before the beginning of this operation.
Seaman: John, on the left. John Vause : Mr. Prime Minister, John Vause from CNN.
Sir, two questions, firstly, would you agree that with Israeli forces back in
the north and the south of Gaza for whatever reason, that most Israelis or many
Israelis at the very least would now view the Disengagement of last summer as
a failure, a failure to stop the attacks, not one moment of peace since the Israeli
forces pulled out in your own words. Secondly, the air strikes and the other military
offensive in Gaza, many believe this is an attempt by the Israeli Government to
topple the democratically elected Hamas government within the Palestinian territories.
How do you respond to those accusations?
Olmert: First of all, I entirely disagree with your judgment about the outcome
of Disengagement. Can you imagine how more deadly the shooting of Kassam missiles
could be had there been these seventeen Israeli townships and settlements in the
distance of two hundred or five hundred meters from Palestinian centers in Gaza?
How many more casualties we would have had then if on top of the nine to ten thousand
Israelis that would have remained in the middle of Gaza, we would have had ten
or fifteen thousand Israeli soldiers permanently in Gaza in order to protect these
the fact that we donít have these settlements has provided Israel with a lot more
flexibility in dealing with terror compared to the situation that was before the
Disengagement. By the way, according to the statistics that we have, there was
shooting before Disengagement, a lot more against Israeli settlements in comparison
to what they are shooting now, which is quite a lot. But they did even a lot more
then, so terror we had before, and terror we have now. If you asked the average
person in Israel when there is a better chance for security when we have thousands
of people in the heart of Gaza tied up to the Palestinians and exposed to them
or we have all this territory empty and therefore we have more flexibility for
the military forces of Israel to defend the Israelis in the south part of the
country, I think the situation today proves to be a lot more convenient.
does not mean that we can tolerate or want to tolerate the continued terror that
is aimed at Israeli citizens from Gaza and we will do everything in our power
to stop it. But by way of comparison, I think that the situation today is much
better, not as a result of any goodwill which is lacking from the Palestinian
side, but as a result of the bold and courageous policy that was carried out by
Former Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli Government. Now, about Hamas, this
could be much a more fair and serious challenge had there not been more than three
hundred missiles shot at Israelis from Gaza in the last month. I mean, when you
ask about this operation, the Palestinian government is a terrorist government.
This is the first time in modern history that there is a whole government which
is a terrorist government. This is not a government which is influenced by terror,
this is not a government which sympathizes terror, this government is terror.
And many of the prominent leaders of this government are deeply involved in terror
and thatís why they were arrested. They were arrested because there was evidence
against the Palestinians, the Hamas ministers and members of Parliament in being
directly involved in terrorist actions. So, we have no particular desire to topple
the Hamas government as a policy. We have a particular desire to stop terrorists
from inflicting terror on the Israeli people and whoever is involved in terror
will have to pay for it and thatís exactly why we have arrested some of those
members of Parliament and ministers who use the umbrella of democracy in order
to abuse the basic goodwill that people have for democracy for the sake of terror.
On the right please. Hitoshi Hito: Iím Hitoshi Hito from Kyoto News, Japanese
News Agency. Let me ask you first regarding your realignment plan. Are you going
to keep IDF Forces in the settlements you plan to evacuate in the near future,
and secondly, on occasion of Prime Minister Koizumiís visit to Israel, let me
ask you about, Japan has concern about military buildup in North Korea, so do
you intend to point out any kind of connection between nuclear issue in Iran and
that in North Korea? Thank you.
Olmert: As for the settlements in the West Bank, the policy that I have outlined,
is a) to remove the unauthorized outposts according to the commitment made by
the Israeli Government in the past. This is the first priority and it will be
carried out in the near future. I canít tell you at this point precisely the dates,
but this is a commitment that we made and we will accomplish this and we will
fulfill our promises to the international community and remove the unauthorized
outposts in the West Bank.
as for the visit of Prime Minister Koizumi, I am very excited about it. I think
this will be the first time that there will be an official visit of a Japanese
Prime Minister in the State of Israel. I know Mr. Koizumi, I met with him in his
official residence about a year and a half ago and it was a delightful meeting
and a delightful visit and a great country, very interesting and very promising.
And I think there is a lot that we can talk about. In principle you know that
Israel is very concerned from the possible possession of nuclear weapons in the
hands, particularly in the hands of non-democratic reckless governments, such
as North Korea or Iran and Iím sure that these issues will be amongst the other
issues that will be discussed in the context of a visit of Prime Minister Koizumi
and the State of Israel.
Seaman: On the left please. Matt Matski: Matt Matski of Finland. On entering southern
Gaza, Israel air force was bombing a power station which was the power station
in Gaza which in turn risked to create problems with the water supply, sanitation,
health, their health risks and so on. Was this action okayed beforehand by on
the political level and if so, what purpose did it serve in attaining those goals
that you were talking about and what consequences do you think that this will
have in making Gaza more dependent on Israel in the future for their electricity
supply and so on?
Olmert: I want to remind you that Gaza is entirely dependent on Israel for the
supply of water and electricity and that we continue to supply Gaza water and
electricity. I am not aware that any of the very friendly nations to the Palestinians
offered the Palestinians to supply them with this basic commodities which are
essential for the quality of life of the people in Gaza or in the West Bank. Israel
is the only country which is doing it, at a very fair cost. And the reason we
are doing it is because we care for the population and we donít want to punish
the population in either Gaza or the West Bank. The measures that were taken in
this military operation were taken for the sole purpose, or purposes which I have
outlined to you before.
is to make the possible release of Corporal Shalit a reality and the other is
to try and stop the Kassam missile shooting at Israeli civilians. The measures
including the damage to the power stations was part of an effort to have a more
effective control on the crossings and on the movements because we were afraid
that the Israeli corporal will be smuggled out of Gaza and that once he will not
be in this controlled area, he might be lost entirely. And some of the measures
that were taken, were taken for that purpose. All was approved by the political
leadership. Not only this operation, every operation is approved by the political
leadership. We are not military experts. Of course we get the advice from the
military on what do they need to do in order to achieve the goals that the government
set for them, but it is always, it needs, it requires the approval of the political
leadership without which the army doesnít act.
Seaman: On the right, Simon, please. Simon Wilson: Simon Wilson from BBC News.
Mr. Prime Minister, two points, just to pick up from my colleague and if youíll
permit me to put it in a slightly different fashion, but perhaps a bit more directly.
The bombing of the power station.
PM Olmert: Do you think that the question before was indirect? Simon Wilson: Allow
me to put a direct BBC question. PM Olmert: I see.
Wilson: The bombing of the power station and other measures such as the use of
sonic booms to disrupt the lives of Palestinians in Gaza have led to charges that
Israel is or may be guilty of war crimes in this operation. Iíd like to ask you
how you respond to that and secondly, I would like to ask you a personal question
which is how are you coping with this crisis without your mentor, Ariel Sharon?
PM Olmert: As
for the first question, tell me do you think your country would have supplied
electricity for a state which is shooting at Great Britain one thousand missiles?
In return for the generosity of shooting at you a thousand missiles, you would
have supplied them with electricity and if you cut the supply about one third
- itís not that there is no supply of electricity by Israel. There is still most
of the, all of the electricity of Gaza is supplied by Israel and 70% of the population
still have supply of electricity. All is provided by Israel, in spite of the shooting.
There was in
the past sometimes a flexible definition of war crimes, particularly by some biased
unprincipled and unfair people, so Iím not responsible for the definition of these
actions outside of their context, but every person with a reasonable moral principle
would have first to answer the question what do you say to people that are continuously
threatened by the shooting of missiles, what do they have to do in order to defend
their own lives and the lives of their children?
do I cope with this without the presence of Sharon? Well, naturally, I am the
Prime Minister and Sharon is not here now to give me advice, but I remember the
way in which Sharon conducted himself through the last Intifada and how determined
he was to stop the terrorists and how aggressive he sometimes decided to be in
order to defend the Israeli people and I remember these principles, and I act
according to the needs, the threats and the right of the Israeli people to enjoy
these basic rights of defense in their homes and I do what can be done and needs
to be done under the present circumstances and Iím sure that had Sharon been with
us, he would have been one hundred percent behind me.
Seaman: On the left please, Ulrich. Ulrich Sahm: Mr. Prime Minister, I would like
to add another.
Daniel Seaman: Introduce yourself.
Sahm: Ulrich Sahm from the German Press. I would like to add another direct question
to all the indirect answers and questions you just received... (second side of
tape) Öpopulation I believe every word. Now, what I do not understand because
Iím also not a military analyst, why do you destroy an entire power plant and
not only the electricity line to the crossings as you said, if all the purpose
is to stop Gilad Shalit from being transferred over the crossings. I mean, punishing
a third of the population is quite a hardship I would say.
Olmert: The outcome is not convenient, that I agree and we donít pretend. I didnít
say that the purpose of destroying a certain part of the power station to be more
accurate which controls the supply of about 30% of electricity, was not only to
control the electricity in the crossings, but to control the electricity in key
areas where we believe there is a genuine chance of having the Israeli corporal
and therefore allowing Israel to take actions that will enable us to find where
he is and to be able to release him.
Seaman: On the left again. Mitch Potter: Thank you. Mitch Potter from the Toronto
Star Newspaper. Ií d like to ask you about what some Israeli political analysts
have been saying in the past few days and that is that if there is an intent to
even or Ö the effect of some of these policies in Gaza might dislodge in some
way the Hamas government, some Israeli political analysts are warning that that
actually could have a terrible effect even for Israel as well as the Palestinians.
The outcome they say might be that Gaza devolves into a kind of semi-chaos where
you actually have no governments at all. You have local towns with local power
brokers and no address on the other side for Israel to deal with in any way. Can
you speak to that please?
Olmert: I believe that you know in the Toronto Star that there are more than just
a few Israel analysts with whom I disagree. Theyíre not just a few, there are
more than that. But I also think that you know just as well, that there are quite
a more Israel analysts that entirely agree with the judgment that we made about
the measures that we need to take in order to defend Israeli people.
are a democracy, unlike the Hamas or some of the Arab countries, there is a genuine
and open and a very dynamic political debate within the State of Israel, and some
of the analysts that are opposed to me exercise their right to be wrong on a continuous
basis. And thatís fair enough. I have a different observation, I have a different
judgment. I think that I donít know of one democratic government in the world,
one, one - those who support us, and those who preach to us - that would have
sat and done nothing when a thousand missiles are shot at innocent civilians in
the heart of the country. I can imagine that some of those countries that preach
to us would have done a lot more in a more brutal and vicious and cruel way against
civilian populations than what we did, the minimum that we are doing in order
to defend our people. And within Israel there are some who disagree with the government.
I think that they are wrong, but I will definitely defend their right to continue
to exercise their right to express their opinions in all the different channels
as they do.
Potter: No concern that after Hamas something worse could come? Is that not part
of the advice youíre being given?
Olmert: you know, in theory there are many dangers. I want to remind you that
more than a year and a half ago, I think as a result of the very tough and unyielding
position of the Government under Ariel Sharon, and some measures that were taken
against Hamas, some of which were criticized at the time, the Hamas requested
a Hudna and a ceasefire. And the reason they did it was because they understood
that this equation is not necessarily in their favor. So, there are many opportunities
and many possible developments and no one of us can be in total control of all
the different options.
Iím trying to do in a very careful manner, with a very genuine regard for the
humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population that lives alongside the State
of Israel, is to offer security for my people, and mind you, I am criticized in
Israel mostly, not for attacking the Palestinians, but for not doing enough to
protect the Israeli people, for not attacking more the Palestinians, for not taking
more severe measures in order to protect the Israeli people. Thatís the main thrust
to the opposition against me in the State of Israel. Not by some political analysts
that think that we have to come and pay tribute and respects to Khalid Mashal.
Most of those
who attack me, attack me because they donít think that I take enough measures
in order to stop it, even harsher and more aggressive measures against the Palestinians
and against the terrorist organizations. And again, the emphasis of my policy
is to do what needs to be done for the sake of security and not anything more,
because of our sensitivity to the life conditions of many Palestinians who are
victims just as we are victims of these terrorist, aggressive and extremist, fundamentalist
Zinder: Mr. Prime Minister, Leah Zinder for IBA News. Mr. Prime Minister, if you
are not ready to make a deal and the violence escalates and if I understood correctly,
the Realignment Plan will be put on hold, are you considering enlarging your Government,
perhaps forming a National Unity Government or a National Emergency Government?
PM Olmert: I
honestly and genuinely am not making political calculations at a time when Iím
fighting the terrorists. I am sure that without the need for enlarging the Government,
all those who share with me the basic concern for the security of the State of
Israel and share with me the basic commitment to fight terror will support the
actions that the Government takes against the terrorist organizations, whether
they are part of the Government or not.
Luzaca: Excuse me, Mr. Prime Minister, I am Marcos Luzaca from Brazilian Television,
Global TV. You said you are ready to have a kind of deal, negotiation with Abu
Mazen, as he is powerful to do that. The Palestinian Authority claims that they
canít get order and discipline over the militants because they don't have condition
to do it, they donít have a chance to show their capability, and they say their
claims are disregarded, including their need to keep the police and so on. One
example to illustrate was the attack in Jerichoís prison six months ago in which
many people claim it wasnít necessary to do. What do you think about this feeling?
PM Olmert: Iím
sorry, I wasnít sure that I heard every word of yours and I want to be accurate.
I prefer to talk today about Gaza. I donít think that we took any violent measures
in Jericho altogether. Marcos Luzaca: Iím sorry, it was just an example, but the
question is about Gaza, about the negotiation with Palestinian Authority.
Olmert: Look, the international community set forth three principles that are
the preconditions for political negotiations, and these three principles were
approved by the entire international community. They are: full and comprehensive
implementation of all the agreements that were signed between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority in the past, the right, formal recognition of Israelís right to exist
as a Jewish State and is the complete disarming of all the terrorist organizations
and a total cessation of terror.
are the three principles which were outlined and approved as a precondition by
all the international community. President Putin, President Chirac, Prime Minister
Blair, President Bush, the EU - everyone agrees to these basic principles as a
precondition. And my answer is therefore very simple: whoever agrees to these
basic principles will be a partner for negotiations with Israel. Abu Mazen seems
to me to be more likely as one who will agree to these and will want to implement
it. The Hamas says openly and publicly that they are opposed to all of these three
principles. They are against Israelís right to exist. I remind you of Mahmoud
Azahar saying that he dreams of the day that he will have a map of the Middle
East hanging on the wall of his office without Israel on the map. This is the
dream of Hamas, this is what Hamas wants to achieve and this is in outright opposition
to all the basic principles of the international community. They are not prepared
to accept any of the previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority and they donít want to stop terror, they want to continue with terror.
So therefore the only possible candidate for negotiations is someone who says
he is ready to accept the principles of the Quartet and the international community.
Now what remains
to be seen is whether he will be able to accomplish it, to actually carry out
these principles - not just to make a statement - but to actually exercise his
authority to the degree that he will be able to implement these principles, and
I am ready to negotiate with him.
Seaman: Mr. Prime Minister, one of the things I think youíve learned in your job
is that your time - you may have become Prime Minister but your time is not your
own anymore, so I think weíre taking one last question unless your aids tell me
that we can continue.
Olmert: you can have two more questions, but one is a bonus.
Seaman: Okay, Michael, please. Michael Matza: Mr. Prime Minister, Iím Michael
Matza from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. I just want to ask you if you
would amplify a little bit on your strategic thinking with this campaign in Gaza
right now. You explained the two goals and I think we understand, certainly how
the military operation is trying to shut down Qassam launching, but I want to
ask you with regard to the part about Gilad Shalit: in light of recently published
poles that show that a large majority of the Palestinian people support the abduction
of this soldier and donít think he should be given up unless he is traded for
prisoners, and those of us who go to Gaza hear from them that they have experienced
hard times before, they have experienced what they call siege before and they
feel that they can weather this too. How do you feel that the current military
campaign is getting you any closer to the release of Corp. Shalit?
Olmert: I am aware of the fact that there are certain opinion poles asking these
questions of whether you would release or whether you prefer the release of prisoners
in exchange for Corp. Shalit. I was not elected in order to satisfy opinion poles
and I have to conduct the national affairs of the State of Israel on the basis
of my judgment and the Governmentís judgment of what is essential for the future
security of the people of Israel. And I think that trading prisoners with a terrorist,
bloody organization as Hamas is, is a major mistake that will cause a lot of damage
to the future of the State of Israel. Now, the fact that there are poles that
show that the majority amongst the Palestinians support the kidnapping of any
Israeli corporal is, of course, a very bad sign that there are not enough Palestinians
who are committed, as we are, to achieve these goals that will do good to both
us and them. And I hope that just as Iím not prepared to act only on the basis
of opinion poles that can change from today to tomorrow, but rather to act upon
the basic principles of human decency which guide my government, so I hope that
the majority in the Palestinian leadership, primarily Abu Mazan, will continue
to hold their position that the Israeli corporal has to be freed and released
without any conditions, as Abu Mazen said time and again over the last few weeks.
Yes, I think weíll take the next-to-last question 'cause I see another question
from Italy so before weíll give Italy the final chance, Iím sure youíll allow
me to let to more questions. First Canada and then weíll end with the Italian
question. Janis Mackey-Friar: Janice Mackey-Friar from CTV, Canadian Television.
With a number of operations in Gaza in the past couple of years, Zaitun, Jebaliah,
Beit Lahia, Beit Hanun - all of them have been done under the auspices of trying
to stop the Qassam fire. There have also been thousands of artillery shells that
have been lobbed into Gaza since the beginning of this year. What makes you think
that this campaign is going to be any more successful in stopping the Qassams
when there has been little history of it, and at what point will you say: yes,
thatís enough, and this is a success?
Olmert: what do you mean at what point I will say: yes, thatís enough, thatís
enough for me defending myself, now you guys can carry on and shoot more and more
of your missiles trying to cause more and more damage to Israelis? I mean, what
else could Israel do other than to pull out entirely from Gaza and stay in a territory
which all the international community recognizes to be the official part of the
State of Israel, to expect the Palestinians to stop terror and shooting from Gaza.
I donít want to say at what time I will stop. I will stop when I feel that I can
provide security for the people of Israel. I will not stop until then.
will continue to take every possible legitimate measures of self-defense that
will help provide better security for the people of Israel. The timing will be
determined by the aggressors. The timing will be defined by those who initiate
terrorist actions against the State of Israel, and so itís entirely up to them.
If they will stop it, we will stop it. Unless they will stop it, we will continue
to take measures in order to defend the Israeli people in the south part of the
country or in any other part of the country. By the way, thinking about the former
question about the opinion poles, I just wanted to remind you that the same opinion
poles that support the kidnapping of the Israeli corporal also support the suicidal
attacks against innocent Israelis. So what do you want to learn from these opinion
Nirenstein: Mr. Prime Minister, Fiama Nirenstein, La Stampa, Italy. Mr. Ahmadinejad
of Iran says that this situation creates an inflaming new feeling in the Middle
East that will destroy once and forever Israel and whatsoever the things he used
to say, but out of that on the 12th of July there is a deadline for Iran to say
if they accept or not accept the deal that is taking place around it. So how do
you evaluate this threat? Do you think that there is really something connected
to the present reality, or is it just for the future for the building of the atomic
bomb and then you are on the same old track with Iran, or there is something new
Olmert: First of all, I would like to remind you that this gentleman Ahmadinejad,
President of Iran, recently said, I think in the last couple of days, that the
Islam will be relieved and happy only when the Zionist entity will be completely
destroyed and disappear. This is the main thrust of the ideology that motivates
Ahmadinejad. Youíre talking about one of the most extreme anti-Semites of all
times and the only formal leader of a recognized and big nation with a great history
- Iran - that holds such an important position and is, from top to bottom, the
worst anti-Semite that you could think of.
Now, this in itself is very bad, but when this is the leader of a nation who at
the same time wants to have a possession of nuclear powers that can be effectively
used against others, and when, at the same time, this nation tries to build ballistic
missiles with a range that can reach every point in Europe and in the Middle East
- the combination of these three: the anti-Semitism of the worst possible kind
with provocative rhetoric that is spelled out on a daily basis by this President
and the desire to possess nuclear weapons and the efforts made to build delivery
systems such as ballistic missiles with warheads that can carry the atomic bombs
to every point in Europe and in the Middle East - this combination is very, very
the basis of the history of my people I am not prepared at any time to acquiesce
with it or to tolerate it. I have not the slightest degree of tolerance to the
possible threat coming from this combination which is represented by Ahmadinejad.
Now I hope that the international community, led by the United States and the
EU-three and Russia and China, will take effective measures that will stop these
threats from being realized. I think the options are none, the effects are quite
clear, the main testing point is the demand of Iran to allow them the enrichment
process of uranium. This must be denied by the international community and I believe
that the countries led by the United States and the others have the power to deny
Iran from continuing the enrichment process. And I am certain that knowing some
of the leaders, primarily President Bush and his determination and total commitment
to stop these threats from going on - I am certain that the necessary measures
will be taken. Thank you.
Seaman: Members of the press, thank you very much. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.
I'd also like to thank Assi Shariv, the Director of Communications for the Prime
Ministerís Office, and the Chief of Staff of the Prime Ministerís Office, Dr.
Yoram Turbowicz, for assisting us in organizing this thing.
Olmert: Thank you very much. Thank you. Bye bye.
above transcript was communicated directly from the Israel Prime Minister's Office
to the Israel News Agency.
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