PM's aides advise him to watch his mouth

Olmert criticized for comments tying Lebanon fighting to realignment plan.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is still learning the ramification of his words and he will have to be more careful in the future, Olmert's advisers and aides said Thursday, a day after the prime minister had to clarify comments he made about the IDF operations in Lebanon creating momentum for his West Bank realignment plan. Olmert's statement outraged opponents of the plan in the Knesset and IDF soldiers who were angered to hear that their fighting could lead to them losing their homes. Olmert later called National Union-National Religious Party MK Effi Eitam and clarified that the operations in Lebanon had no connection to "future diplomatic processes." The prime minister's advisers and political allies admitted on Thursday that Olmert made a mistake. They connected the misstep to other recent quotes that he regretted, including declaring that Kadima had won the election three weeks before it took place. Olmert was also accused of exaggerating this week when he said that "the face of the Middle East had changed" as a result of Israel's achievements in Lebanon. "He didn't mean to give an impression that the realignment would start tomorrow morning," an Olmert aide said. "It could be that he made a mistake in his use of grammar and language." A Kadima MK said that Olmert was "still new at the job" and that with experience, he would learn to measure every word he says properly. The MK said that former prime minister Ariel Sharon limited the mistakes he made because he spoke less and wrote down what he wanted to say in advance. "Olmert is still getting used to the fact that every sentence he says has a big impact and that he cannot allow himself to say everything that he thinks in his head," the MK said. "He is learning that even syntax has ramifications. He came out of it well, but he still has something to learn." Sharon's former spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said that Olmert "doesn't always think through what he says" and said the prime minister had a habit of "rushing to the press to say what he wants to say and then taking it back when there is a backlash." Olmert's political opponents, who have made a point of not criticizing him during the IDF operations, said that Olmert's comments would be used against him in the future as evidence of "irresponsible behavior." Strategist Lior Chorev, who advised Olmert during the election campaign, said that it was unfair to take the quote out of context and noted that Olmert had been working for three weeks under tremendous pressure. Olmert's spokesman said that when the prime minister was asked whether the operations in Lebanon ended hope for realignment, he at first said that he was not dealing with the plan but he later added that success in Lebanon could create the kind of momentum that would allow Israel to implement the plan. Political strategists suggested that Olmert might have purposely referred to realignment to find favor with the international community. They said that had former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu made similar mistakes, he would have been held more accountable. "Olmert has always been known for answering questions in a provocative way," one strategist said. "When he became prime minister, Sharon's advisers taught him to use restraint and to count to three before he shoots. But yesterday, when the press questioned the realignment plan that is his baby, he jumped."