Olmert: We must continue Gaza ops

PM says Israel has "no choice" but to stop terrorism; earlier, Olmert told FADC peace talks must continue.

Olmert naughty boy 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
Olmert naughty boy 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
Operation Hot Winter was not a "one-off," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Knesset Monday. "Everything is possible, aerial and ground raids, special operations and other operations - everything is up for discussion. What we do, how we do it, and the extent to which we attack, all of it will be felt by Hamas," Olmert said at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "We will not be revealing what we are considering, or when, because we don't want to give our enemies the chance to prepare." Olmert has come under attack from the diplomatic community, coalition and opposition legislators, for his handling of the ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. IDF forces withdrew from Gaza on Monday, ending a three-day offensive that left more than 100 Palestinians dead. Hamas officials declared a victory, and continued to launch rockets into Gaza-periphery communities and Ashkelon. "I've heard all the comments. No one in the world knows how to stop projectile fire completely with just a short-term operation. I believe what we're doing will accomplish the government's goals, namely seriously reducing rocket fire and weakening Hamas to the point where it can no longer run the Strip," said Olmert. "The only way to do that is to systematically use different kinds of force, in different ways and different levels of intensity." Responding to criticism from right-wing Knesset members that the IDF had only intensified its operations because attacks on the prosperous city of Ashkelon had increased, Olmert said that the military operation would have taken place regardless. "The situation in Gaza clearly requires a different approach than the one we have been taking in the last few months," said Olmert. "I say it again - this has nothing to do with the rocket fire on Ashkelon. The lives and quality of life of the residents of the Gaza vicinity communities is just as important to me as those of the rest of Israel's residents," he said. The prime minister stressed that Israel needed "patience and understanding" from the international community. "The population [in the Gaza periphery] is losing its joie de vivre. Children are living in constant fear, parents are anxious - no country can put up with this," said Olmert. "Israel is defending its residents in the South, and with all due respect, nothing will prevent [us] from defending them, and no one has a right to preach at us for acting in self defense." Olmert also said that if it were not for the peace process, Israel would have been completely taken to task for Operation Hot Winter. "Israel would have been [a] complete outcast because of the Gaza situation," said Olmert. "The diplomatic horizon is what affords us the elementary right to self defense." Addressing recent calls by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to halt all negotiations with Israel, Olmert said that the peace process must move forward. "If we don't push the process forward, we'll have to deal with 'Gazafication' in the West Bank - anyone who can't see this is lying to themselves," said Olmert. "There is no way to prevent the West Bank from turning into a second Gaza Strip without some sort of a political horizon in play. Today's Palestinian leadership wants that much more than the previous one - which we embraced."