Olmert faces off with Netanyahu

'Palestinians returned money to Israeli companies, didn't use it for terror'

abbas 88 AP (photo credit: AP)
abbas 88 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced off with Likud Leader Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday, in what Knesset members called "the most fierce" Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting this session. Even as the Knesset convened for a special session to vote on launching an investigation into the Amona evacuation, Olmert told the committee that the day after elections he could rule against such a committee, and was likely to do so. "I will not allow such a committee to be established against our security forces," Olmert declared. MK Arye Eldad (National Union) promised Olmert that the Knesset would vote against the committee, if the prime minister's office took it upon themselves to launch an investigation. "No such investigation will be launched," Olmert said. "You are sitting here blaming me for telling the police officers to use zero tolerance against settlers throwing rocks. But I will not be blamed." "How is it that you came here today without cavalry?" asked MK Effi Eitam, whose injury during the Amona evacuation aroused controversy after the source of his injury, which he claimed was from a horse-mounted policeman, was disputed by security officials. "I was told that you were coming unarmed," answered Olmert. "Do not interrupt me as you interrupt horses." Eitam responded by asking the acting prime minister if he intended to raze unauthorized Beduin buildings as well. Olmert replied that he has acted more in this regard than all the other "blabbermouths." Meanwhile, MK Taleb a-Sanaa called Eitam a racist and an inciter of hatred against Beduins in the Negev. A-Sanaa accused Eitam of running his election campaign at the expense of the Arabs, Israel Radio reported. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the government's decision to give the Palestinian $50 million in taxes owed to them by Israel on February 3, saying that the Palestinians used the money to repay debts to Israeli companies and to pay salaries, but not for terrorism. Olmert and Netanyahu exchanged barbs over the transfer of these funds, with Netanyahu lambasting Olmert for his decision to continue transferring money. "The entire Palestinian Authority has turned into Hamas in the wake of the new parliament's swearing-in ceremony," Olmert said, promising that he would not, "distinguish between shades." The acting prime minister said that 50 percent of the money transferred to the PA from Israel had been distributed among Israeli companies who were providing the PA with services, and the remainder was used for salaries. "This means that the chances are low that the money would be used for terror," said Olmert. When Netanyahu argued that he, as Finance Minister, had not been given the choice to transfer funds to the PA, Olmert quipped that in his term in the Finance Ministry he had experienced, "free will" to make decisions regarding money transfers. Netanyahu also attacked Olmert for allowing the Palestinian elections to take place in an environment generated a Hamas victory. Referencing Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon, Netanyahu accused the government of responsibility for Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections by disengaging from the Gaza Strip this past summer. "Sharon would not have allowed the elections in east Jerusalem to take place," burst Netanyahu. "I know what a close, intimate relationship you and [Ariel] Sharon shared," said Olmert in sarcasm. "I know Sharon would have allowed the elections to take place there... now the whole world knows what the Palestinian chose democratically." On the subject of Iran Olmert called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an anti-Semite, and a racist. "Ahmadinejad is an anti-Semite, a racist, and an Israel-hater, but there's no point in holding a competition of inflammatory statements with him." These statements came one day after the quartet decided to continue funding the Palestinian Authority so long it was run by an interim government. They also pledged to continue humanitarian support for the Palestinians. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, in a press conference Tuesday, said that the Quartet would assess the situation in the PA once the new government was formed. He reiterated that the Quartet stood by its previous demands on Hamas to denounce terrorism and to recognize Israel's right to exist.