WATCH: Olmert brushes aside accusations of war crimes in Gaza, Lebanon conflicts

In a 15-minute interview, the former premier also offered implicit criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attitude toward his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas.

October 3, 2015 16:37
2 minute read.

Ehud Olmert denies accusations of war crimes

Ehud Olmert denies accusations of war crimes


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Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister who was sentenced to prison for fraud -pending appeal - told Al Jazeera English over the weekend that he is not concerned over possible war crimes charges despite accusations by human rights organizations that Israel committed violations during the Second Lebanon War and the 2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In a 15-minute interview, the former premier also offered implicit criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attitude toward his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, whom Olmert described as a "genuine, serious, and trustworthy partner for peace negotiations."

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In 2007, a year after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, two human rights groups accused both countries of having failed to act on war crimes committed during a month of fighting.

In scathing reports, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both called for an arms embargo on Israel and the Shi'ite Islamist group until steps are taken to ensure that human rights violations are not repeated.

The two reports criticized Israel for dropping thousands of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon, many of which failed to explode and continue to pose a threat to civilians. They rebuked Hezbollah for firing at least 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns.

Nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died during 34 days.

"Neither the Israeli nor the Lebanese government has investigated these violations, nor has either held anyone accountable," said Human Rights Watch.

An Israeli commission to investigate the war focused primarily on its military's shortcomings, while the Lebanese authorities, "engulfed in internal tensions ... have lacked both the will and, seemingly, the capacity to investigate violations", the group said.

Amnesty International also called for an international arms embargo.

"The (UN) Security Council should declare and enforce an arms embargo on both Israel and Hezbollah until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure weapons will not be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program.

"I will remind you that during the Lebanese situation, Israel was attacked by the Hezbollah and by Lebanon into territories which are recognized to be part of the State of Israel, and we had to react in order to defend our innocent citizens," Olmert told Al Jazeera English.

"I don't remember one case in which the United Nations, during the war in Lebanon, resolved anything [related to war crimes] against the State of Israel," the former premier said. "At the time, all of the Arab countries criticized Hezbollah for provoking that confrontation."

Olmert was also asked by Al Jazeera about his views on the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. While the erstwhile premier was hesitant to offer direct criticism of Netanyahu, he nonetheless endorsed Abbas as a worthy interlocutor while urging both governments in Jerusalem and Ramallah to show "greater flexibility."

"He certainly is [a partner for peace]," Olmert said. "There is no other. Time and again, he has proved that he is against terror."

"The basis for any negotiations in my mind is undisputed, and this is a two-state solution," the former premier said. "There can be no peace without a two-state solution."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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