PM: Iron Dome at advanced stage

Olmert praises disengagement despite Kassams; says 30,000 troops no longer protect 1,200 citizens.

olmert content 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
olmert content 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
A significant amount of money is being invested for the completion of the Iron Dome anti-Kassam system, currently under development by Israel's Rafael (Armaments Development Authority), Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday. "The plan is that these means will give us the capability of stopping short-range rocket attacks including Kassams. This is applicable to both the northern and the southern fronts," said the prime minister during a Kadima faction meeting. Olmert emphasized that the system was at an advanced stage of development with an investment of nearly one billion NIS. Regarding the Gaza blockade, Olmert said Israel was continuing to impose sanctions in a controlled manner in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster. He stressed that Gazans would not live normal lives as long as Israel is under fire. "We view Hamas as being responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip, irrespective of whether its operatives are involved in every single incident," he added. Olmert also praised the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. "Despite the [continuing] Kassam fire, it was a very good move since there are no longer 30,000 soldiers protecting 1,200 citizens," he said. Concerning the peace process, Olmert expressed hope that an agreement on basic principles would be reached between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams this year. Nevertheless, Olmert again stressed that Jerusalem would be the last issue raised in negotiations and that this had been agreed upon with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "I will not hesitate to carry out painful compromises in order to reach true peace," he said, adding that a peace agreement cannot be signed before terror in Gaza ceases entirely. Olmert mentioned Sunday's decision by a ministerial committee he led to approve a budget of NIS 350 million to fortify 3,600 Gaza belt homes against Kassam rockets. He noted that five million shekels had already been transferred for this purpose.