Olmert during visit to South: Syria not "a partner in diplomatic process"

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on a tour of the South that included a visit to the Hatzor Air Force Base, said the Syrians were not "a partner in the diplomatic process." There was some criticism that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was not planning to meet the Syrians during her Middle East swing. "The Syrians could have risen to the occasion if they did not have their finger on the trigger on both the Lebanese and Gazan fronts," Olmert said. "Unfortunately, they see things differently. "I believe that Nasrallah made a mistake. If he would have thought and would have known that this would be our reaction, he would have responded and acted differently. He has delegitimized himself throughout the entire world," he said. Vice Premier Shimon Peres also referenced Syria Monday, telling visiting Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Saltanov that Israel had no intention of attacking Iran or Syria "because they are the world's problems, and not only Israel's." During his visit to the South, Olmert did not speak of delivering Hizbullah a knockout blow, but rather said that the "international response and the changes in the Arab world will, I believe, allow us to, within a reasonable time frame, build a model solution that will significantly weaken and isolate Hizbullah." He said that the current offensive would lead to a "significant change for the residents of the North," and that Israel would continue to fight Hamas in the South "with all our strength." Olmert said Israel would not be dragged into an invasion of Lebanon. "In every combat situation, the preference is to act from the air and not on the ground; but there are situations in which ground forces are necessary. I would like to add that the insertion of ground forces will be controlled and be done with great care." Following Hatzor, Olmert - in a visit that was wrapped in a total media blackout - met with Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mehatzri and members of the city council, and then traveled to Nitzan, where he met with a local council made up of representatives of Gush Katif evacuees.