Shalom supports PM's moves, interim multinational force

LONDON - Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that he favored a multinational force in Lebanon and that he fully backed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Olmert is doing what needs to be done and we're fully supporting him. There is no interest in splitting the nation and most of the people of Israel believe we should react and react in a way that puts an end to the threat posed by Hizbullah and the Iranians. "We can't go on with a situation in which Israelis are still in bomb shelters. So what Olmert is doing is acceptable to the Likud and to the people of Israel," he said after a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House. "In Israel, rooms are turned into bomb shelters, in Lebanon, Hizbullah turns rooms into bomb storage," he said. Shalom said he was in favor of an interim multinational force. "We can't accept a temporary cease-fire, it will allow Hizbullah to rearm. What needs to happen is the liberation of the kidnapped soldiers, full implementation of [UN Security Council Resolution] 1559 and a multinational force for an interim period," he told the Post. Asked if he thought he'd receive backing for such a plan from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said Blair's attitude was very positive and that he was aware of what Iran was trying to do. Blair could perhaps tell other world leaders what a threat Iran was, Shalom said. "Blair's support has been crucial but he's under huge pressure as he's under attack from within his party, on the street and in the media," Shalom said. Shalom told the audience at Chatham House that the defeat of Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations was in the interest of the entire West and that Israel was leading the effort on behalf of Western civilization. He urged the international community to stand with Israel. Shalom said that the "new axis of terror and hate," which included Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Iran and Syria, was a global threat and represented a confrontation between extremists and moderates and between the democratic West and the Islamic extremist East. "These events are an expression of the battle between the extremists and the moderates, and the entire international community and the moderate Arab states should stand together with Israel. "The axis of terror and hate do not believe in a two-state solution but in one Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean," he said. Shalom called on Syria to decide if it was a state sponsor of terrorism or part of the family of nations. He said that Syria and Iran's complicity in the conflict was a problem for the entire world. He also said that Syria had much to gain from the crisis as it had distracted attention from the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. "A clear message must be sent to Syria that they cannot be a legitimate state on the one hand and sponsor terror on the other. They cannot expect to be a member of the family of nations while actively engaging in the support of terror," he said. Shalom also said that Iran was using the conflict to divert attention from its efforts to build nuclear weapons. "Iran gains the most from the dispute and has achieved what they wanted - they have been able to buy time while advancing their nuclear program. Now a global problem, the international community must meet this challenge... The international community must be united and firm in their demands - there can be no compromise on this," he said. Iran's nuclear program was not just a problem for Israel but for the entire international community, he said. When Iran produced missiles with a range of 2,000 to 3,000 km., that could reach London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and southern Russia, it ceased to be Israel's problem alone, he said. "We [the international community] cannot allow the extremists to win. Israel must act swiftly and decisively for the future of the region and bring about the full implementation of UN resolution 1559. "Israel's actions are not against Lebanese interests. It is in their interests that terrorists be removed from Lebanon. Hizbullah must bear full responsibility for turning Lebanese areas into war zones," he said. Shalom connected the Palestinian issue to all this, saying that Hamas, which has taken over the Palestinian Authority, shared an ideology with Hizbullah. "Disengagement did not empower the moderates but it was a victory for terror, and also showed that the Palestinians were not ready for statehood. After disengagement we all thought they would develop Gaza, ask for investment, build hotels and a state. Instead they launched rocket attacks on southern Israel." He appealed to the international community to remain firm and united. "The moderates are under huge pressure. If the extremists win this, it will weaken democracy, set the peace process back and destabilize the entire region. Therefore we, as the international community, must make sure that the moderates win this battle..." Asked about the future of the Likud Party, he said, "At the moment we have a war and we don't talk about politics. When it ends we will move to politics again and we'll continue. There is a process initiated to have an early primary in order to challenge the [party] leadership."