Olmert: PM exaggerates Iran's potential threat

Former PM says he fears Israel would be isolated from the world if it does not reach an agreement with the Palestinians.

Olmert JPost conference 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Olmert JPost conference 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
NEW YORK - Former prime minister Ehud Olmert passionately called for a two-state solution at The Jerusalem Post conference on Sunday, citing fears that Israel would be isolated from the world community "not because they're anti-Semitic," but because they refuse to tolerate the continuation of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.
“At the end, the possible outcome may be disastrous to the national strategic interest of the State of Israel, where we’ll be isolated in the world,” Olmert said.
“This is what we have to face,” Olmert said in the speech. “I ask myself whether the government of Israel today is prepared to deal with the most crucial, sensitive, painful, demanding and challenging problem, which is future relations between us and the Palestinians.”
Skeptical of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s timeline for action against Iran before it acquires a nuclear weapon, Olmert chided his successor for repeatedly pitting himself against the American president.
“We don’t need to embarrass the president with public statements, even if we don’t agree with him,” Olmert charged. “President [Barack] Obama does not want to be someone whose legacy is a nuclear Iran.”
Noting the seriousness of which which he approached the issue when he was in power, Olmert warned against inflating the threat, and said he believed that “quiet” cooperation with the Americans was the best strategy going forward.
“I think that we have exaggerated, for a long time, the potential threat of Iran possessing nuclear power,” he added. “They don’t have it not only because of their failures. Perhaps someone helped them to fail.”
Olmert doesn’t see as serious a strategic danger to the State of Israel – requiring war with the possibility of a comprehensive ground invasion – in the next five to 10 years, from any former foe, including Egypt, Iran, Syria or Lebanon.
“Israel can afford itself to change priorities,” he said.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threatClick here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Olmert said that, although “we don’t know who the revolutionaries are [in Syria], and we don’t know who will emerge,” the ultimate winners in the conflict will be spending decades rebuilding their country, and will be too weak to address qualms they may have with the Jewish state.
He passionately defended his conduct of the 2006 Lebanon War, after which Hezbollah has stockpiled tens of thousands of rockets.
“What they don’t have is a desire to use these weapons” because of what happened in 2006, he charged. The former prime minister said he prayed for wisdom and success in the new government, and said he “has faith” in its ability to deal with Israel’s greatest challenges adequately.
“I will not criticize the Israeli government,” he said at the outset, noting that it is inappropriate to criticize the government overseas. He called Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett “refreshing” and a “welcome change” from the stale internal politics plaguing Jerusalem.
After his speech, Olmert told Shalom TV that he “was positively surprised to see how much applause” he received.
“I got fewer boos than last year,” he said. “I am starting to get popular with right-wing American Jews, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”