Thursday, January 24, 2008

PM Olmert Declares 'No Regrets,' Says North Better Off After War

Hana Levi Julian

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted in a speech Wednesday evening that the Hizbullah terrorist organization in Lebanon has more missiles today than it did before the 2006 Second Lebanon War, but declared he has no regrets in terms of the decisions he made "during the war and during other situations." Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Olmert said that the north was flourishing as a result of the conflict. "The present situation is incomparably better than that which preceded it," he said. "The residents of the north have peace and security. There is no daily friction and no firing of rockets or even Kassams. This has gone on, not for a day or a month but for 18 full months. This is the longest period of quiet in the north in the past 25 years."

"Our enemies in the north are in no hurry to fight us," Olmert added. "They know why. The reasons are flying in the air, they are felt in the region, they are known to all those who need to know."

The Likud party published a reaction to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's speech saying that Olmert was "disconnected from reality and inventing a virtual reality as the Winograd Report approaches."

The statement by the opposition party noted, "In the north, the Hizbullah has armed itself with more rockets than it had on the eve of the war and in the south, Israeli citizens live under a constant missile threat."

The Winograd Report, which is to be published next Wednesday, is expected to slam the Prime Minister for the government’s mismanagement of the war.

Families of the IDF soldiers who fell in the war, however, have pre-empted the report with one of their own, entitled “How the Mighty Have Fallen.”

The report, presented to the Knesset Wednesday, harshly condemned Olmert, whom they accused of total irresponsibility by remaining in office. “He should have quit the day the last soldier returned from Lebanon,” the report stated. It added that "the blood of the fallen soldiers cries out for him to quit."

The families said they reached their conclusions after their own investigation. They criticized the mandate of the Winograd Commission, which was appointed by the Prime Minister to avoid a state commission of inquiry that would have been authorized to reach conclusions on individuals and summon them to trial if necessary.

Tafnit party chairman and former senior IDF officer Uzi Dayan joined the voices calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation on Wednesday, saying Olmert is increasingly dangerous for Israel.

Dayan, who has been active in the movement to bring back kidnapped IDF soldiers, revealed he consulted with the army company commander who drafted a letter calling on the Prime Minister to resign. The letter was signed by fifty company commanders and officers.

Neither of the two primary goals of the war – to disarm and disable the Hizbullah terrorist organization in order to eliminate the threat to northern Israel and to rescue Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad, the two IDF reservists kidnapped by Hizbullah operatives in a cross-border raid – was met.

The condition and whereabouts of Goldwasser and Regev remains unknown, and Hizbullah has re-armed and strengthened its infrastructure to a level higher than that with which it began the Second Lebanon War.

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