There is no need for military action to stop Iran from moving forward with its nuclear program, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Tuesday night.
"If the international community joins forces and applies the necessary restrictive measures on the economy of Iran, it will force Iran to reconsider its position," said Olmert. If Europe, the US, China and Russia join forces, he continued, "they can create such damage to the Iranian economy that it will force them to reconsider." Olmert made it clear that he believes that the Iranian threat "is not as close as the Iranians want us to think. They are not as close to the threshold as they pretend to be. There is still time to fight in a comprehensive responsible manner."
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While experts on anti-Semitism say that Iranian anti-Semitism is not typical, traditional anti-Semitism observed Olmert, he couldn't really distinguish the difference. Throughout history "they always wanted to kill us and to destroy us and they didn't hesitate to use violent measures," he said of past anti-Semites. "The threat was always similar and the outcome for the Jewish people was bad. We will not allow it to continue and we will do everything to stop it."
With regard to the Palestinian issue, Olmert spoke of the trilateral meeting scheduled for February 19 between himself, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
"I hope that by that time Abu Mazen has not partnered with Hamas in contradiction to the principles of the Quartet," he said, adding that he hoped that Abbas would resist all pressures and temptations.
If the trilateral meeting is successful it would pave the way for fuller negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, said Olmert, but if Abbas were to bow to pressure, "it will be totally unacceptable to the Palestinians and totally unacceptable to us."
Olmert appeared to have softened in his resolve not to enter into any discussions with Hamas. "We will cooperate with any Palestinian government that will accept the principles of the Quartet," he declared.
Although the meeting on February 19 will be trilateral, in the final analysis there will be no trilateral process and no international conference, Olmert insisted. "It has to be a bilateral process" because the Palestinians have to draw conclusions that will lead to a better quality of life for the Palestinian people.
Since the November ceasefire, said Olmert, Israel has used tremendous restraint. The Palestinians, he said, have not observed the ceasefire for a single day.
In his opening remarks to the Conference of Presidents Olmert said, "You have come from a country which is the best friend of the state of Israel in the whole world. This has been true for many years, but particularly true since George W. Bush became president of the United States. We have enormous respect for President Bush - for his friendship and support and continuing concern for the fundamental interests of Israel."