The prime minister spoke following a panel on government corruption that referred to many specifics of the criminal allegations against him and his government. Immediately preceding his speech, however, was the televised address of President Moshe Katzav, which provided him the opportunity to play the prosecutor rather than the prosecuted.
“I cannot speak tonight without referring to the events of the past day, and the Attorney General’s decision to hold a hearing for the President in light of the possibility that serious charges may be filed against him. In these circumstances, I have no doubt that the President cannot continue to fulfill his role and he should leave the President’s Residence. This is a sad day for the State of Israel," Olmert said.
He went on to express his hope that Ariel Sharon "would return to us."
Olmert focused on Iran for the remainder of his speech, offering a run-down of diplomatic moves his government has been taking against Iran’s nuclear program. He cited his recent visit to China and took credit for the United Nations resolutions aimed against Iran. “We know our efforts had much influence in this regard,” he said.
“Those who believe, as we do, that a diplomatic solution is preferable, must exert pressure to bring about change in the near future,” he said. “Dragging our feet at this point…will only make harsher steps more necessary in the future. Iran is vulnerable and susceptible to international pressure in this regard despite its defiant and belligerent public declarations.”
Olmert urged the international community to act so Israel does not have to. “At this stage, there is still time – though not unlimited – to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power that will threaten its adversaries, first and foremost Israel,” he said. “Israel is not spearheading the struggle against this threat. It must be dealt with first and foremost by the superpowers and other key countries. We are working to try to place this on the top of the agenda of world leaders.”
The prime minister stressed, though, that Israel would not rely on the world to protect it. “The Jewish people, upon whose consciousness the scars of the Holocaust are deeply engraved cannot afford to ignore those who want to destroy us. In the past, the world remained silent and the results are known. Our role is to prevent the world from repeating this mistake,” Olmert said. “When the leader of a country announces, officially and publicly, his country’s intention to wipe off the map another country, and creates those tools which will allow them to realize their stated threat, no nation has the right to weigh its position on the matter. This is an obligation of the highest order, to act with all force against this plot.”
In a direct message to the people of Iran, who would presumably be negatively impacted by an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, Olmert recalled past Israeli-Iranian cooperation. “We have nothing against the Iranian people,” he said. “Prior to the takeover of Iran we had impressive and warm relations under the Shah.”
Olmert concluded with an explicit assurance that Israel will reserve the military option should diplomacy leave Iran with nuclear weapons. “We have the right and freedom of defensive actions in defense of our interests,” he said. “Nobody should misconstrue our hesitation for reluctance to defend the State of Israel…There is no difference between right, left and center in this regard – and the people stand united as well.”
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