Olmert: Netanyahu is Israel's best spokesman

Olmert thanks Netanyahu for recent appearances defending Israel on US and European television networks.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert briefed opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu on recent developments in the operations in Lebanon in an 80-minute meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem on Friday. A spokesman for Netanyahu said that no political matters were discussed at the meeting but that Olmert thanked Netanyahu for his recent appearances defending Israel on American and European television networks. He said Olmert told Netanyahu that he was Israel's "best spokesman in the foreign press" - a compliment that could potentially cause a dispute between Olmert and his vice premier, Shimon Peres. Netanyahu condemned a Foreign Ministry official who told Reuters that Israel would not demand the immediate disarming of Hizbullah as part of a deal to end the fighting in Lebanon. He said that Israel must complete the operations by disarming Hizbullah and removing the security threat to northern Israel. The opposition leader said he would continue to support the government in all matters pertaining to the operations in Lebanon. Polls published over the weekend in the Hebrew press found that public support for the operations in the North has not fallen despite the recent increase in casualties. A Dahaf Institute poll published in Friday's Yediot Aharonot newspaper found that a whopping 92 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that Israel's operations in Lebanon are justified. The number fell to 82% when Israeli Arabs were added to the totals. Asked whether the IDF should attack Hizbullah more forcefully, 82% of Jewish Israelis said yes and just 15% said no. With Israeli Arabs included, the numbers were 71% and 26%. Olmert's approval rating among Jewish Israelis is 82% and Defense Minister Amir Peretz's is 71%. A Teleseker poll published in Ma'ariv on Thursday found that 95% of Israelis believe that Israel is correct in its operations, but there was a 4% increase in respondents who said that Israel should seek a cease-fire and pursue negotiations on a prisoner exchange.