PM calls for action against Iran, declares Israel's readiness to respond.
By HERB KEINON
In a speech overshadowed by President Moshe Katsav's emotional and angry press conference, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the concluding session of the Herzliya Conference Wednesday night that in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat, Israel reserves the "right to full freedom of action in defense of our vital interests."
"Anyone who threatens us, and threatens our existence, must know we have the capability of defending ourselves, responding with force, discretion and with all the means at our disposal as necessary," Olmert said. "We will not place the lives of our people and country at risk."
The prime ministerial address at the closing session of the Herzliya Conference, run by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of the IDC Herzliya, has become a vehicle in recent years for a major policy speech, and this time Olmert used it to focus - with the exception of about a minute in the beginning when he called on Katsav to step down - exclusively on Iran. The Palestinians, who in recent years were the focus of the Herzliya address, were not mentioned even once.
Despite what Olmert described as the gravity of the Iranian situation, he stressed that Israel was not facing an imminent nuclear attack. And in a thinly veiled jab at Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who has likened the present situation to 1938, Olmert said that the country should speak "in one responsible voice at home, not overly excited, but rather clear and determined."
"We refuse to be dragged into an atmosphere of collective self-induced fear, we will not allow the people to slip into depression and insecurity," he said. "We have immense strength, we have nothing to fear and will not be afraid."
Olmert said it was clear that a diplomatic solution was preferable in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, and added that the more forceful steps taken against Iran now, the less likely would there be a need to find "more demanding and determined solutions" in the future.
"I want to make clear that Iran is very vulnerable and sensitive to international pressure, despite its arrogant and provocative attitude, and it is already paying a heavy price for this behavior, a price that will get higher if it continues with its polices," Olmert said.
Referring to the Holocaust, Olmert said that the world had remained silent in the past, and "the results are known. Our role is to prevent the world from repeating its mistake. This is a moral question of the highest degree."
"There is no human experience we have not undergone," he said. "No affliction, threat, hatred, jealousy, envy, persecution, violence and bloodshed that have not been seared into our flesh. With unparalleled strength we built our lives, and established an illustrious country, and no force in the world will be able to destroy us."
Saying that Iran directly supported Hizbullah, Palestinian terrorists, and also bore responsibility for the recent riots in Lebanon, Olmert stressed that Israel had "nothing against the Iranian people."
"We are not the enemy of the Iranian people," he said, "and have no interest in a conflict with Iran."
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