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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Tells The Nation He Will Not Blink First In War With Hizballah Nearly Eighty Per Cent Of Israelis Support Him

Knesset Consensus Favors Strategy Of Air And artillery Power But No Ground Offensive Into Lebanon

A direct hit on a Haifa house (Maariv)

In a speech to the nation, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sounded loud and clear that Israel is in a fight to the finish with Hezbollah. While the Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah guerillas continue to slug it out, the Israeli public shows strong support for the Prime Minister. How is the campaign developing on the ground and in the air? Is any end in sight as international mediators start arriving in capitals of the Middle East?


:: IsraCast Audio ::

Israel needs time to eliminate the Hezbollah missile threat from Lebanon that's the message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Israel Defense Forces.

The Hezbollah rockets keep slamming into Israel. Last night alone at least seventy Katyushas hit the north where hundreds of thousands of Israelis remain in their bomb shelters. At the same time, the Israel Air Force continues to clobber Hezbollah launch sites and storage facilities in Lebanon. Labor Knesset Member Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister sees no end in sight:


(Insert: Ephraim Sneh)

But is the IDF conducting the right strategy by depending on air and artillery power and not launching a ground operation to suppress the Hezbollah rocketing? MK Effy Eitam of the National Union is a former senior combat officer who served in Lebanon. He supports the IDF approach and the creation of an Israeli buffer zone in south Lebanon.


(Insert: Effy Eitam)

On this score, MK Otniel Schneller of Olmert's Kadima party says top priority goes to clearing missiles out of the border area. Hezbollah must also be prevented from returning to their military positions along the border that have now been bulldozed by Israel:


(Insert: Otniel Schneller)

But what of the involvement by Iran and Syria? Iranian Revolutionary Guards are known to be manning Hezbollah's longer range rockets. MK Silvan Shalom of the Likud says there is no question that Hezbollah is taking orders from Tehran and Damascus but he cautions against attacking neighboring Syria:


(Insert: Silvan Shalom)

Another Likud MK Yuval Steinitz believes the Lebanese government is strong enough to dismantle Hezbollah and send the Lebanese army to police the border area with Israel.


(Insert: Yuval Steinitz)

Steinitz feels the IDF is achieving promising results in the campaign but he does not rule an Israeli ground offensive into Lebanon:

(Insert: Yuval Steinitz)

Israel is sticking to its conditions for a cease-fire. Hezbollah must return the two Israeli soldiers who were captured inside Israel. In addition, the Lebanese government must implement U.N. resolution 1559 that calls for the dismantling of Hezbollah and the dispatching of the Lebanese army to the border area. That is what Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni will tell foreign mediators who visit Jerusalem. After U.S. President George Bush cursed Hezbollah and Syria in his unguarded conversation with Britain's Tony Blair chances are that Washington will give Israel the time it needs to deal with Hezbollah. In his speech to the nation, Prime Minister Olmert declared he would not blink first in the confrontation with Hezbollah's Sheik Nasrallah. An opinion poll indicates that nearly 80% of Israelis are firmly behind him.

David Essing

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