Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Israel News Photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slammed international calls for restraint by IDF forces in Gaza, as the Cabinet met Sunday to decide on Israel's next moves in Operation Cast Lead.

"For many years we've demonstrated restraint. We reined our reactions. We bit our lips and took barrage after barrage," said Olmert in remarks at the opening of the weekly meeting of government ministers. "No country in the world – not even those who preach morality to us – would have shown similar patience and self-control."

The prime minister's comments appeared to be aimed at the United States, which abstained last week from a vote and allowed the United Nations Security Council to pass Resolution 1860, calling for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all IDF forces from Gaza.

On January 8, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the Council for passing the resolution, which she called "a step toward our goals." Although she noted that the U.S. recognizes the right of Israel "like other states, to exercise its right of self-defense," she softened the statement by adding "We have said to Israel that it is obligated to take feasible steps to minimize the impact of any actions on civilians."

The fact that IDF soldier Gilad Shalit continues to be held in captivity by Hamas terrorists more than two and a half years after being kidnapped in a raid on an army base near the Kerem Shalom Crossing merited only a passing mention: "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind the Council also that Hamas continues to hold IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and he must be released." No mechanism for forcing Hamas to comply with the demand was proposed.

Rice also urged the Council to "keep our eye on the goal of Resolution 1850, which we passed in this chamber a short time ago. That is the goal of establishing an enduring commitment to mutual recognition; freedom from violence, incitement, and terror; and a two-state solution, building upon previous agreements and obligations. All UN member-states bear a responsibility to promote these principles and to help the parties toward the establishment of a State of Palestine to live in peace, side by side with the state of Israel."

Olmert: 'Did Not Delude Ourselves' About Int'l Double Standard
"We did not delude ourselves that what seemed natural, clear and self-evident for any other country, would be received with a proper measure of agreement given that the State of Israel is involved," he noted bitterly. "This did not impair, and does not impair, our determination to defend our residents."

Olmert repeated a refrain reiterated in almost every statement by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni since the operation began: "We have never agreed that someone should decide for us if we are allowed to strike at those who bomb kindergartens and schools and we will never agree to this in the future. No decision, present or future, will deny us our basic right to defend the residents of Israel."

The prime minister also praised the defense establishment, and particularly "IDF fighters and commanders," IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as "the anonymous fighters of the ISA (Israel Security Agency)" and ISA (Shin Bet) Director Yuval Diskin.

He added that the war, "an unprecedented national effort that restored the spirit of unity to the nation" was nearing its goals; however, Olmert said, further action was necessary in order to ensure that the security situation in the south would be changed for the long-term.