Olmert: War in Lebanon Promotes Withdrawal Plan

Olmert angered many in the nationalist camp with his remarks to AP this morning. "Irresponsible" and "dangerous" were among the calmer responses.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 14:02

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told The Associated Press today that he feels Israel's success in Lebanon will create "new momentum" for his plan to unilaterally withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria.

Contrary to many Israeli analysts, who feel that the unilateral retreat from both Lebanon and Gaza strengthened the terrorists' resolve to fight Israel, Olmert appears to believe that he has now proven that Israel can fight off any attack that emanates from territory abandoned by Israel.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) believes the opposite. "Just yesterday," Eldad said, "Olmert admitted that Israel is unable to uproot Hizbullah from Lebanon and remove the threat of Katyushas - and then without reaching the logical conclusion, he now says he wants to turn Judea and Samaria into an Iranian base as well."

Likud MK Gideon Saar said, "Olmert's remarks show that he is totally detached from reality. After his policy of unilateral retreats brought rockets to Haifa and Ashkelon, he stubbornly insists on continuing this wanton policy that will certainly bring rockets on every location in Israel."

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said,
"At this difficult hour, when national unity is required, Olmert chooses to speak specifically about that which divides us. The Prime Minister is converging inside himself [a reference to the withdrawal plan that Olmert calls 'convergence'] and is disengaging from what is happening here. The vast majority of the nation has already woken up from the illusion that withdrawals and disengagements will bring quiet and serenity. With one hand, Olmert is fighting against Hizbullah, but with the other hand he is strengthening it."

Olmert also told AP that Israel's three-week-old offensive in Lebanon will stop only after a international peacekeeping force is deployed in southern Lebanon - something that does not appear to be on the agenda in the coming days. He also said that the release of the two Israeli soldiers abducted and held by Hizbullah must be unconditional.

MK Benny Elon, head of the National Union party, termed Olmert's remarks "totally irresponsible," and said they "endanger Israel's victory in the current war."

The Council of Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha Council) issues a statement saying Olmert's remarks give a "supportive wind to terrorism." The Council said that Nasrallah is "now encouraged to keep fighting until he achieves all his objectives. It looks like Olmert wants to dismantle the consensus that exists regarding the war."



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