Olmert: We can stop Iran without strike

Former PM says his successor is sincere about making peace.

By BY GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
February 15, 2010 03:17
3 minute read.
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olmert confused 298 gpo. (photo credit: GPO)

 
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Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who led Israel’s efforts to prevent a nuclear Iran during his three-year premiership, expressed certainty on Sunday that the Islamic Republic’s nuclearization can be prevented without resorting to a military confrontation.

Speaking to a gathering of the Israel Friends of Tel Aviv University at the campus’s Green Building, Olmert said the Iranian threat should not be underestimated and was a genuine reason for concern, but that Israel should not initiate a military strike on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites.

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He appeared to confirm Israel’s involvement in alleged covert operations that have reportedly hindered Teheran’s nuclear program.

“There are a huge range of options between a full military attack and accepting a nuclear Iran,” Olmert said. “There are other means that – together with other things happening, and they are happening – can create a result that would not allow the Iranians to reach what they are trying to reach.”

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Olmert acknowledged to an Israel audience for the first time that he had been ready to divide Jerusalem and allow its holy basin (the area surrounding the Old City) to come under the stewardship of five countries, and to accept Palestinian refugees into Israel. He said he regretted not saying earlier that Israel had to be divided on the basis of the pre-1967 armistice lines.

Olmert said he did not know why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not accept the deal he negotiated with him. But he said world leaders and Arab leaders did and that he believed most of the people of Israel would have as well. Olmert expressed hope that the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would adopt his plan.



“I hope the current government tells the world that there is a plan that was presented to the Palestinians by an Israeli government, which most of the world and the Arab world said they would sign on to immediately,” Olmert said. “I believe this government wants to come to a situation where they can make peace. They might not want to do it like me, but I don’t doubt that they have that desire.”

Olmert made a point of not attacking Netanyahu, saying he did not think it was right to harm governments before they were given a chance. Yet he did say he disagreed with Netanyahu’s decision to stop using Ankara as a mediator with Damascus.

“There is no reason why we can’t negotiate at the same time with Syria and the Palestinians,” Olmert said. “I reached the conclusion that it was right to negotiate with Syria and that the Turks were the correct mediators, and I still think that they are the right mediators. The Turks were helpful, fair and exact.”

Olmert revealed that the indirect talks had gotten to the point where a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was scheduled, but it had to be canceled because Operation Cast Lead began. He said it was possible to reach peace with both the Syrians and the Palestinians.

“Peace is not a pipe dream,” Olmert said. “It is possible, necessary and urgent.”

He did not mention his court case or the controversial comments of Deputy Jerusalem District Attorney Uri Korb. He defended his handling of the Second Lebanon War and his rejection of a deal that could have brought about the release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.


He declined to answer a question about a possible political comeback.

But former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz, who attended Olmert’s speech, spoke openly about mulling entering politics when the required three-year cooling-off period for a retired general ends in January 2011.

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