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Prime Minister Olmert: I Will Not Order IDF To Reoccupy Gaza Strip and West Bank - It Would Be a Catastrophe

Hamas Is Not A Strategic Threat To Israel, A Nuclear Armed Iran Is

Israel Will Dismantle More Illegal Outposts On West Bank - Another Four Were Removed Recently

PM Olmert

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ran into heavy flak from right-wingers when he made his first appearance before the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee. However, Olmert apparently gave as much as he got in the stinging exchanges. Top of his agenda was how to cope with the Palestinian Authority now being run by Hamas terrorists who threaten to exterminate Israel.

I will not order the IDF to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and West Bank - thats the position of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In Olmerts words it would be a catastrophe and result in rivers of blood. He was replying to Opposition Leader Bibi Netanyahu who accused Olmert of not responding to the Hamas take-over and repeated Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Olmert declared there would be no let-up in Israels counter-terror campaign, adding that terrorists had also launched Qassams when the IDF occupied the Gaza Strip. He again declared Israel would not transfer any more money to the Palestinian Authority that Hamas was now converting to a terrorist body. The Acting PM also differed with Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin who has told the committee that Hamas posed a strategic threat to Israel. Olmert added: Nuclear weapons in the Iranian hands is what I call a strategic threat. At the same time Israelis should not compete over making tough statements about President Ahmadinejad who was undoubtedly anti-Semitic and a racist.

Olmert said it was too early for Israel to give up on the Roadmap peace process noting that Israel has international backing for its position. At the same time, Israel would not play the Palestinian game of negotiating privately with President Mahmoud Abbas while Hamas controls the PA.

On the domestic scene, Olmert would honor Israels commitment to dismantle more illegal outposts on the West Bank. He disclosed another four had been removed recently. The Israeli leader said he was very sorry about the bloody clash between settlers and Israeli policemen who removed the outpost of Amona earlier this month - first of all for the policemen who were injured and called Nazis. Olmert was categorically opposed to a state commission of enquiry; if any policemen had acted brutally they would be investigated but there was no question the settlers had first attacked the security forces. Although, the Knesset has decided to set up a parliamentary enquiry, Olmert vowed: It will stop functioning one day after the March 28th election.

Olmerts first appearance before the committee was marked by sharp exchanges with right-wingers in general and Netanyahu in particular.

David Essing

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