Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke in a special Knesset session today in the wake of the war in Lebanon. "I wish to thank the chief of staff, the commanders, and the soldiers who risk their lives," Olmert said, and continued, "Above all, I salute you, residents in Israel's north, for your sacrifice and steadfastness. You are a main pillar of Israel's strength."
The prime minister took upon himself the responsibility for the decision to go to war. "Responsibility for the operation rests with me. This is a responsibility that derives from the position of prime minister… The decision makes it clear that Israel will not tolerate any infringement of its sovereignty."
Olmert said the UN cease-fire resolution was a substantial achievement for the State of Israel. "There is no longer a state within a state, an entity that exploits Lebanon's weakness," he said.
The prime minister declared that the Lebanese government would be held responsible for what happened on its territory. "We will continue to work for the return of the abducted soldiers. We will do this without wearying, and using every means at our disposal, overt and covert," he continued, adding, "I believe that the UN resolution creates the conditions for the soldiers' return."
"The fighting brought about a change vis-a-vis the Hizbullah terror organization," he said. "The IDF's soldiers struck a hard blow, the extent of which is as yet unknown, at this organization. In every battle, the IDF's warriors had the upper hand. The organization's leaders went underground, and dealt in the spreading of lies.
"We will continue to pursue the leaders of Hizbullah everywhere at all times. This is our obligation, and we have no intention of apologizing or asking anyone's permission.
"We did not delude anyone. We said the rockets would fall. We had no choice."
On the criticisms raised against the conduct of the war, Olmert said, "I hear the voices expressing disquiet, even disappointment. I say to all - patience. The struggle against terror did not begin today, and will not end in the foreseeable future. This is a long, difficult, complicated struggle that demands restraint, determination, robustness, and stamina," "Every living thing lives and must identify dangers and maximize it strengths in order to survive," said opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of his Knesset speech. "There is a danger that threatens our people. Not only us, our soldiers and our economy, but our people."
"Since Hitler there has not been an enemy like Ahmedinejad," Netanyahu said. "He has Hamas in the south, and Hizbullah in the north. This is an existential peril."
"The people of the north stood heroically, without wailing and without weeping. They called for the fighting to continue. They were prepared to make sacrifices and to suffer so the work could be completed," Netanyahu said.
"People joined in the effort, from the business sector, teachers, doctors, nurses. The people opened their hearts, their wallets and their homes. In times of trouble we have to understand that we all have one destiny."
"We had difficulties running the war, and the rear. We will have to learn lessons and rectify the faults, but at this moment there are certain points of the utmost importance for securing our future.
"The concept of unilateral withdrawal has collapsed," Netanyahu said. "In 2000, we left Lebanon with no guarantees and no security arrangements. This erodes our deterrent and gives physical positions to our enemies.
"What is the conflict about?" he asked. "It is about our existence here facing our enemies. The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.
"No country can exist without alliances. Today we can forge alliances," he said. "We expect George Bush, who said he will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons, to remove this most terrible threat of all."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on August 14, 2006
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