Olmert: Israel safer post-Saddam

PM praises Bush for his "courage, determination and leadership" in Iraq war.

olmert brilliant 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert brilliant 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel is much more secure now that Iraq is no longer led by Saddam Hussein, and the security situation has improved further following this summer's war in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday. "Iraq without Saddam Hussein is so much better for the security and safety of the State of Israel," Olmert said in an address to the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, which is holding its biennial national convention in Jerusalem. "Thank God for the courage, determination and leadership manifested by President George W. Bush in facing this challenge," Olmert said. The premier's comments about the three-and-a-half-year-old American-led war were some of the most direct remarks made by an Israeli leader regarding the regional ramifications of that war from Israel's point of view, and come amid a groundswell of opposition in America to the US presence in Iraq. Olmert heaped praise on Bush for his global war on terror, calling the US president "the great friend of the State of Israel who resides in the White House" even as the premier acknowledged that some of his domestic policies were controversial in America. Olmert said he found "understanding and commitment" in his meeting with Bush at the White House earlier this month regarding Iran's nuclear program, which, the premier said, was the principal danger facing the State of Israel. He said Iran represented both a physical and a moral threat to the Jewish state. "We cannot afford to listen and not react... we cannot afford to allow anyone not to respond to the moral challenge of anyone threatening the life of the Jewish people in the State of Israel," Olmert said. "We can't allow anyone in any place in the world to continue their routine without responding." Seeking to dispel frustration in Israel over the mixed results of the Lebanon war, the premier argued that Israel's security situation was "a lot better today" than it was before Hizbullah's unprovoked cross-border attack on July 12 that triggered this summer's war. Olmert also said the economic situation was "the best in the history of the state," noting that there was $20 billion of foreign investment this year alone. "I don't think that the objective situation is as difficult as sometimes it appears to all of us," he said.