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Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the 7th Annual JPost Conference in NY.(Photo by: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former PM Olmert downplays Israel's ability to attack Iran
By GIL HOFFMAN
04/29/2018
Former prime minister blasts his successor Netanyahu for reneging on Western Wall deal.
Israel is not capable of successfully attacking Iran’s nuclear program the way the IAF destroyed the Syrian nuclear facility, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who ordered the attack in Syria in 2007, said at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York.

Interviewed on stage by Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz, Olmert said he decided not to attack Iranian nuclear facilities because Israel could only set Iran’s nuclear program back two years. He said the danger involved in attacking Iran then was much greater than any possible achievement, and this remains true now.

“What we could do with Syria, we cannot do with Iran,” Olmert said. “With Syria, we destroyed it and knew it would take them time to rebuild it. With Iran, the distance is farther, and it is spread in different sites, mostly underground. The ability of Israel to destroy the nuclear capabilities is much smaller, and it requires different capabilities [that we don’t have].”

Contrasting himself with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has refrained from attacking Iran, Olmert quoted the film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: “It’s better to be quiet and do what needs to be done than to be noisy and not do what needs to be done. If you need to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”

Asked about US President Donald Trump’s plans to fix or nix the international community’s deal with Iran by May 12 at the urging of Netanyahu, Olmert revealed that he did not agree with the prime minister or the US president.

“I am not sure Trump is right,” he said. “If there is an alternative, change it. If not, don’t rush to change the agreement.”

Olmert was even more critical of Netanyahu on the Western Wall agreement that the prime minister reached with haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and then reneged on. He said Netanyahu changed his mind “for the wrong reasons” to satisfy the haredim.

“If there’s one thing I can’t refrain from saying openly and publicly, it’s the indifference and rudeness and aggressiveness against major parts of the Jewish people outside of Israel,” Olmert said. “After telling them how much their support is needed, the Israeli government disqualifies them as Jews. This is unacceptable and intolerable. We can’t say we need them and want them, but they are not allowed to come to the Kotel in their specific way. No way. I’m sorry.”

Olmert, who met with the Palestinian Authority president more than 100 times as prime minister, said he remained optimistic that a peace agreement with the Palestinians could still be reached. He praised Trump for seeking a deal, calling it a positive step forward. No one should doubt Trump after seeing his ability to bring two warring Korean sides together, he said.

“Whoever will replace Netanyahu and the representative of the Palestinians will need to look at it as the greatest desire of their lives to make peace,” Olmert said. “This is the one thing that separates Israel from an extraordinary breakthrough that will make our country the greatest place on earth. If there will be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, there will be peace with Arab countries around the Middle East and Arabs around the world. Israel will be the capital of the Middle East, and Arab business will go through Tel Aviv. They want to do business with us, and they respect our abilities. But right now they can’t because of extremists.”

Offering advice to Netanyahu on how to handle his criminal investigations, Olmert, who spent 16 months in jail for a series of corruption convictions, said to do what was right to respect the office of the prime minister. In a previous interview with the Post, Olmert said he stepped down from his role as prime minister for that reason.

Asked if he was considering making a political comeback, Olmert said he did not have to be in politics to reach out to people, such as he did at the conference.
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