Olmert: Israel ready to fight Hamas

Gov't still seeks diplomatic solution; hopes Abbas will stay in office.

olmert talking 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert talking 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel will prepare to fight Hamas while searching for an opportunity to proceed diplomatically, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a crowd of former IDF generals and officers at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Monday. Olmert said he hoped Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will not exercise his threat to quit. He said that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was misunderstood when she called Abbas "irrelevant" and that she had meant that even though Abbas continues to be the PA's president, Israel will have to face the reality of a Hamas-led government. "We know that after the rise of Hamas, the situation is more complicated than we had hoped it would be," Olmert said. "If there will be a need, we can handle Hamas. We are not frightened by Hamas and Hamas doesn't threaten us. If there will be a need, we will know how to fight them with full force and with courage." But Olmert said the fight on terror would not prevent Israel from looking for a diplomatic horizon to live side by side with the Palestinians on the basis of compromises. "We know that what we want is to separate from the Palestinians to live in secure borders that have a solid Jewish majority," Olmert said. "We will try to get to this carefully. We will fight terror while looking for a diplomatic horizon." Following his speech, Olmert told reporters at the event that there was no truth to reports that there was a dispute between Israel and the United States over how to handle Hamas or that he had a difference of opinion with Livni about Abbas. The event was organized by Yom Kippur War commander Haim Erez, former police Insp.-Gen. Shlomo Ahronishky, former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit and former general and Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat. The crowd full of generals was very subdued and refrained from applause. The Likud reacted to the event by accusing Olmert of "hosting a Purim party to wear the costume of a brave general" and "using leftist generals to make people forget his minimal army experience." Kadima officials criticized the chairman of the Likud campaign, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin for comparing Olmert's choosing Likud's list single-handedly with the dictatorial rule of Mussolini in Italy in a speech in a Likud rally in Haifa on Sunday. A Kadima spokesman accused Rivlin of "ugly, extremist incitement." "I never compared Olmert to Mussolini personally, just their styles," Rivlin said on Monday. "Maybe Musolini was bigger. Ehud is not Arik and Olmert is not Sharon. It's become fashionable that everyone who criticizes Kadima is crucified. They are sensitive about people telling the truth." In an effort to help Kadima's candidates get acquainted with one another, the candidates will meet together in a festive event on Friday at the Mini-Israel theme park near Latrun. A Kadima spokesman denied a Channel 2 report that the event was scheduled after Kadima candidate Avi Dichter was caught on camera failing to answer a question from a high school student about who the number 34 candidates on the Kadima list was (Dan Ben-David). The High Court of Justice will convene on Tuesday to rule on Labor's request to prevent former Labor MKs Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Dalia Itzik from running with Kadima. Labor attorney Eldad Yaniv appealed a ruling last week by the head of the central elections committee, justice Dorit Beinish allowing them to run.