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Friday, March 10, 2006

Olmert Interview

For some reason, much of the country is still lulled into a trance that there is no chance that any party other than Kadima Achora will be invited by President Moshe Katzav to form the next government. But if Kadima crashes and burns, you can point to the start of that process in an interview that 'acting Prime Minister' Ehud Olmert gives in today's Jerusalem Post.

In the interview, Olmert claims that he will set Israel's 'final borders' by 2010 - which barring a no-confidence vote would be within the term of the government that is about to be elected. Here are some of the 'highlights' of the interview:

You've started talking about what settlement blocs will be incorporated into Israel. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz recently added some, as did Avi Dichter. Where is the line?

I spoke in general about Gush Etzion, the Jerusalem envelope, Ma'aleh Adumim and the Ariel region remaining part of Israel, and I spoke about the Jordan Valley as a security border. I don't think it would be fair for me to talk about this more in detail.

This is something we need to discuss, to define. After the elections, I intend to wait and see if the PA accepts the three principles we set down with the international community following the Hamas election victory, and whether they accept the principles of the road map and work according to them. It is not enough for them to make declarations; we have to see if they act according to the principles of the road map, disarm, change the [Hamas] charter, accept previous agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist, and everything involved. If they do this, there would be a possibility for negotiations. [We all realize that hell will freeze over before any of this happens. CiJ]

We will wait, but I don't intend to wait forever. I am not willing to have Israel live according to a PA-set timetable any longer. If, after a reasonable time passes, it becomes clear that the PA is not willing to accept these principles, we will need to begin to act. [In other words, another unilateral withdrawal expulsion of Jews from their homes. More scenes like 'Amona.' But worse, because this time it will be larger numbers of people being forced out of permanent homes. CiJ]

In the first stage, I plan on holding an internal Israeli dialogue to reach a definition that reflects a wide national consensus about what Israel's permanent borders should be. I intend to speak to everyone, first and foremost the public who lives in the territories.

What do you mean by a "dialogue?"

Discussions. I'm not going to get into the logistics, but I will meet the representatives of different segments of the population. I want to first negotiate with the people of Israel, to build a consensus on the issue of the borders. It is possible that there will be gaps; there may be disagreements we aren't able to bridge. But I think the first stage will be to reach a national agreement that should come before negotiations. [There is very little on which there is a 'national consensus' in this country. What this means is no referendum. People on the right, please don't fool yourselves. This election is the referendum on further expulsions of Jews, and you should work to get the vote out accordingly. It amazes me that certain people at the Yesha Council said otherwise earlier this week. CiJ].

Shouldn't this internal dialogue, as well as where the borders will run, be held before the elections, so the voters know what exactly they are voting for?

You don't sit before the elections and deal with these matters in such high resolution. I have set out a direction, which is more than any of the other candidates have done.

But both Mofaz and Dichter expanded on that direction.

Dichter is perhaps a candidate to be in the next government, depending on how things develop, but he is not poised to be prime minister. So with all due respect, it is not the same.

I am setting out a direction, which I think includes a lot as far as content is concerned, and it gives a good understanding as to what will and will not be.

The Beit El-Ofra block?

You want me to draw an exact line, and at this point I don't want to... the general directions are moving into the main settlement blocs, while preserving the unity of Jerusalem. [And he won't say whether Beit El-Ofra is a 'main settlement block' because he does not consider it one. The problem is that from the standpoint of what's necessary for the country's security, both Beit-El and Ofra are a stone's throw away from Har Ba'al Hatzor, the highest point in all of Samaria. There's a huge radar station atop Har Ba'al Hatzor, and on a clear day you can see both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from there. CiJ]. During the first stage, I want an internal discussion inside Israel, before I go to external negotiations. ['Internal discussion.' But no referendum. So we rely on the Israeli polls. And we all know just how reliable those are. CiJ] In parallel, I want a dialogue with the international community. [So the Euroweenies are going to have a say in where Israel's borders are. Maybe the Saudis too. There are words that fairly describe Olmert. I won't use them on this blog. CiJ].

The conditions [in the world] for Israel are much more comfortable than they have been over the last decade, for two reasons. The first is disengagement and the good will it generated toward Israel, principally because of the leadership and courage of Ariel Sharon. [Good will? Has he looked at what's gone on at the UN recently? CiJ]

The second is the Hamas victory, which altered the perception of what is and is not realistic in a diplomatic process. There is one reality when Hamas is not in the government, and another reality when Hamas is in the government and is the dominant factor in the PA.

Regarding this reality, we can wait: What will happen if Hamas continues with this position - they don't want negotiations, they don't want peace. How much time will Israel wait? Forever? Will we be captives to a PA that is not willing to make peace? Will we sit back and deal only with terror, only react, not initiate?

Or at some point do we say, "Okay, we waited. There is no way there will be a change on the other side, so lets see what we have to do in order to serve Israeli interests." [Another unilateral expulsion of Jews from their homes will bring lots of pain and will not serve Israeli interests. Even some leftists can see that. CiJ]

At that point, the first stage is an internal dialogue, in parallel with a dialogue with the international community.

I believe in our ability to speak well with Tony Blair, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Jacques Chirac. I know them all and have met with each. [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon developed excellent relations with some of them that I wish to continue; I established good relations with some of them myself. [Chirac thinks we should be funding Hamas and Olmert wants to talk to him? CiJ]


We will always prefer an agreement. But if this turns out to be impossible, we will have to weigh our next steps. In the final analysis, my intention is that, within four years, we will arrive at Israel's permanent borders, according to which we will completely separate from the majority of the Palestinian population, and preserve a large and stable Jewish majority in Israel. [There already is a 'large and stable Jewish majority in Israel.' If he'd look at the real 'Palestinian' population numbers, he would see it. CiJ]


Doesn't this contradict what Sharon said - that after disengagement he could sit outside Gaza in this new "parking place" for 10 or 20 years and see how things develop, and that there wouldn't be another disengagement?

I'm not talking about disengagement, but about setting permanent borders. You have to remember that Sharon spoke before Hamas won the election. I don't think it is responsible to judge what he said while ignoring that in the meantime the reality has changed so conspicuously. [So because Hamas won the election, Israel is going to run away scared? That will discourage terrorism. /sarc CiJ]


Kassam rockets were fired [before disengagement]. The worst terrorism took place when we were everywhere in the territories. Today, I can operate in Gaza. [Then why doesn't he do it already and stop the rain of Kassams on Sderot and Ashkelon and other places in the Negev? This is complete and utter nonsense! CiJ] Almost every day, we have been preventing terror acts, and targeting people involved in terrorist activities, as needed according to the circumstances. All those options will also be retained in the future in Judea and Samaria.

Do you take Hamas's statements that disengagement was a victory for its actions seriously?

No, nor do they take their statements seriously. It is no coincidence that Hamas is not now directly involved [in terrorist acts]. It is no coincidence that they are not now directly activating terrorism. They are not doing this, because they know the price they have paid for it. Hamas sees the price that Islamic Jihad is now paying. [No, all they did was bring in al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad to act as their proxies. After five and a half years of this, Olmert still doesn't understand that the terrorists are all the same people and that they just change uniforms once in a while. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda and even the (more secular) al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades share a common goal: to drive the Jews into the sea R"L as the first step in restoring the Islamic Caliphate. CiJ]

They know that a state that left [Gaza] out of weakness, doesn't engage in targeted interceptions, doesn't carry out seven to eight targeted interceptions within three weeks. That is what a country fighting terror with all its might does. This week, the head of Hamas in Judea and Samaria was taken from his home and arrested. This is not exactly weakness, and they know very well that it isn't weakness.

Are you concerned about the statement made by incoming Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh after Dichter spoke of further withdrawals, that Israel should continue to disengage because every inch strengthens Hamas?

I'm not impressed. My life is not determined by Hamas's actions or its statements. I define my goals and our ability to carry them out.

With all due respect to the daily actions of the IDF, Sharon and Mofaz left the impression that once Israel disengaged from Gaza, it would use a degree of force to combat terrorism it hadn't used before. The public doesn't see this happening.

In life there is no single "slam, bam, thank you ma'am." Only certain politicians talk in those terms. In life, there is one slam, another bam, and then another. And the Islamic Jihad in the last two months received one slam, and another, and another - almost every day.

But the Kassam rockets are still being launched.

Fewer and fewer all the time. [Whom is he kidding? Not me and not most Israelis who know what is going on. CiJ] I have not placed any restraints on the security forces to continue with the interceptions, as long as they assist in stopping terrorism.

Do you agree with Mofaz that Haniyeh is a legitimate military target for Israel?

Whoever is involved personally and directly in terror is a target. We haven't forgot that Haniyeh was an aide to Sheikh [Ahmed] Yassin and Yassin was targeted because he was involved in terror. So if Haniyeh commits acts of terror, he is opening himself up to the possibility of being targeted. I hope he doesn't. [Why? Hasn't he committed enough acts of terror already? Haniyeh is not exactly a nice person. CiJ]

Do you envision a situation in which Israel will move ground forces into Gaza?

I don't see a need for this, but I don't want to get into an analysis of the military options. We will do whatever we need to do to preserve our security. [When MIGHT he see a need for it? When a Kassam hits the power plant and destroys it? CiJ]


Some say that the Palestinians ask themselves why should they negotiate with Israel if they can just sit back receive things.

I don't think that is the Palestinian perspective. Abu Mazen's [PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas] recent comments were the exact opposite. They are stridently against Israel taking unilateral actions. When Abu Mazen heard Dichter [talk about future unilateral steps], he immediately said that the PA completely opposes this. If they were getting everything, why the opposition? This shows that they are very afraid of this type of situation. [Nonsense. The 'Palestinians' are happy with anything they are given and look at it as a step to getting it all. CiJ]


What about the existence of al-Qaida in the territories?

Nothing like that exists. [Everyone else - including Hamas and Fatah - think it does. CiJ] Attempts are continually made by various groups - al-Qaida and the Global Jihad [network] - to plant roots here. There is always talk about this. I don't know what information Abu Mazen was basing his claims about a massive al-Qaida presence. You can always find someone connected to someone else. But at this stage, we can't talk about massive al-Qaida activity taking place in the territories.

You have said in the past that Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem's periphery would not end up being part of the city. There are a number of neighborhoods in the city today that are on the other side of the fence. What do you envision in the next four years?

We will need to look at the reality. If you ask me whether the Shuafat refugee camp needs to be part of Jerusalem, I don't see any benefit in that for Israel.

Everything must be considered when we get into the process of an intensive examination within Israel about our permanent borders - what neighborhoods are not an integral part of Jerusalem, and not an integral part of historical Jewish tradition. I'm not so sure about saying that our forefathers prayed toward Shuafat. [Except that means that to get from Neve Yaakov or Pisgat Zev into the center of town, you would have to go through 'Palestine.' Olmert is starting to sound more and more like Ehud Barak. CiJ]


In this vein, what did you learn from Amona?

The first thing I learned is that when the Supreme Court makes decisions, you have to abide by them. [You all know that I am not a big fan of the 'Supreme Court,' but they certainly did not require Olmert to send in the police and the army to break heads. That comment is so disgustingly callous that it says more about who Olmert really is than anything else. He doesn't give a damn about anyone except himself. CiJ]

Another thing I learned was that there is a small group of people in Judea and Samaria who have lost their proper proportions, whose rabbis and responsible leadership have no control over them, and who are liable to threaten the security forces with violence and even carry out acts of violence, like throwing stones and blocks, as they did.

But the most important thing, which I knew beforehand, is that it will be necessary to conduct a dialogue with representatives among the settlers. [Then why did he turn down all attempts to conduct one? CiJ].


If you win the election, can you work with Binyamin Netanyahu in the same government? Is he worthy of being a senior minister?

I am very disappointed with the Likud's propaganda. Ten and a half years ago, there were protests against Rabin. In one there was a poster of Rabin in an SS uniform. Bibi was warned before that. After Rabin was killed, we all had to defend Bibi from allegations that he encouraged the assassination. I think we were right to defend him. He never thought it would happen and he had no such intention. But it happened. Not because of him, but it happened, and people pointed to the picture and said that anyone who permitted the poster of Rabin in an SS uniform permitted the bloodshed. Again, Bibi did not hang this poster, but he was at the protest where this poster was hung. [This may be the most incredible part of this entire interview, because it has been proven in court that the poster was made by someone who was planted by the Shabak - General Security Service - for reasons that remain hidden to the public to this day. For Olmert to effectively accuse Netanyahu of being behind that poster - or even knowing in advance that it would happen - is stooping very low, even for someone as sleazy as Olmert. CiJ]

Now I see that Bibi is saying that Hamas is a threat to Israel that must be destroyed. And I see Likud ads that say "Olmert is Hamas" and pictures of me wearing a Hamas hat and the Hamas symbol next to me. I say to Bibi, "Have you not learned anything? Have you not learned any lessons? Such wild incitement again?"

What is a "hilltop youth" supposed to think when they tell him that Hamas is such a threat and Hamas is next to his house, and then they say that Ehud Olmert is Hamas? So I am disappointed.

We were political opponents, and I never hid that, but this kind of extremism and incitement? [It's kind of hard to comment on this because I have not seen the Likud's campaign ads, but given how Olmert twisted the Rabin SS poster, I find it hard to attribute credibility to this. CiJ]

After what you just said, could you sit in a government with him?

I haven't won the election yet and anything can happen in three weeks. But if we win, I don't rule out in advance any Jewish, Zionist party being a part of the coalition. I can work together with anyone who is serious and responsible.

If you stand it, read it all.


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