Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh rejected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's offer for negotiating peace between the two countries on Sunday. "Israel must first fulfill UNSC resolution 1701 and end its embargo on Lebanon before we can talk about peace," Salloukh said. Later Sunday, a Lebanese official called Olmert's offer "empty propaganda." He said that the Lebanese government had yet to receive any kind of formal request for negotiations from the Israeli government. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told students at Orat high school in Ma'alot on Sunday morning that he had appealed several times to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and asked to meet with him to start a process that would lead to peace between the two countries. "How simple and natural it would have been if the prime minister had answered the requests I made that we should sit together, shake hands, and stop this hatred that a part of his nation brought upon us," the prime minister said, speaking at an opening ceremony marking the first day of the new school year. "I hope that this day is not far off." Earlier Sunday morning, Olmert, accompanied by Education Minister Yuli Tamir, also visited the local school in the northern village of Meona. "Education is everything," Olmert told the students. "It is security, it is economics, it is culture, and it is what will move us forward."
School year begins amid renewed strikes
The annual education start-up
The prime minister also addressed the war in the North.
"The opening of this school year in this area has special significance," he said. "We have had a difficult summer in the North. I look in the eyes of all the children, and I can see you know how to cope."
Olmert expressed to the students his appreciation of "your will, your persistence, your optimism, and your love for the area in which you live."
Olmert also reminisced about his own school experiences.
"I remember the first day I came to first grade," he said. "I wasn't so nice, I wasn't so smart, and I didn't know so many things. I didn't know as many things as you knew already before you even started school."
After the visit, Olmert told reporters that "everyone raised their hands when I asked who already knew how to work with a computer."
The visit to the Meona school was a symbolic one, since it was the school attended by kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit. The children at the school presented the prime minister with a kite with Shalit's picture on it and asked him to do everything possible to bring him home.