'We're fed up with empty gestures'

PM tells European FMs Israel will only agree to Gaza cease-fire if concrete moves made to protect South.

survey_gaza_world_pressure (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that United Nations Security Council discussions on a cease-fire in Gaza should not be taking place at the moment because an opportunity must be given for an effective, regional Middle East process that all countries involved would be fully committed to in order to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians. Speaking during a Jerusalem meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Czech Republic Foreign Minister Karl Schwarzenberg and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, the prime minister said Israel would only agree to a cease-fire in exchange for concrete measures that ensure immediate security for southerners. "This is the time for action not words. We are fed up with empty gestures," he said, according to Army Radio. Olmert told the three foreign ministers that while he respected the UN and its institutions, an immediate, unconditional cease-fire would not be the right way to bring about a solution to the Gaza situation. He said the IDF operation would force Hamas to stop firing rockets. Nevertheless, the prime minister said Israel would agree to a request to set up a joint humanitarian situation room with the European Union, Israel Radio reported. On Monday night, Olmert urged French President Nicolas Sarkozy to prevent the UNSC from bringing to the floor a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, telling the French leader that Israel was forced into launching Operation Cast Lead out of a desire to defend the lives of its southern citizens. "The goal of the operation is not to destroy the Hamas leadership, even though we are able to do this, as well," Olmert told Sarkozy. "We defined from the very beginning a limited goal - to change the security situation in the South and to free thousands of citizens from the threat of terror." "In view of the diplomatic developments, it would be unwise to pass a resolution on the matter, since past experience has proven that Israel cannot afford restricting its freedom to act against terrorism - today Hamas, tomorrow Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaida," he continued. "Sometimes the need to find a compromise in the UN comes at Israel's expense," the premier said, adding that Israel has "experience in this matter." Olmert also expressed his opposition to a cease-fire agreement similar to the one which was accepted in June, implying that the first arrangement may have created a more perilous situation for Israel. "I am a man of compromise," he began. "I have conducted two negotiations in an effort to bring about compromise. However, on one thing I cannot compromise, and that is the security of Israeli citizens." "We will not be able to come to a compromise when Hamas is able to fire in another month or two on the Israeli population," the prime minister said. "Before the ceasefire, Hamas had rockets that could reach as far as 20 kilometers. After the ceasefire, the range of their rockets grew to 40 kilometers, threatening the lives of a million Israelis." "We cannot reach a compromise that would enable Hamas to fire at yet more cities and towns in Israel," he added. Olmert reiterated US President George W. Bush's statement, according to which the end result of the Gaza operation must be that Hamas "not only stops firing, but also lose its ability to fire in the future." The UNSC is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip, and France is currently residing as its president. Similarly, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu called on France to thwart the cease-fire initiative, telling Sarkozy on Tuesday that the conditions were not yet right. Netanyahu said that as long as weapons smuggling via the Philadelph Corridor continued, Hamas would easily succeed in replenishing its rocket supply. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev has indicated that Israel would consider not abiding by a resolution calling for an end to the Gaza operation, Army Radio said.