"We fire at terrorists in Gaza because they fire at us. If there are no violent actions directed at Israel – Israel will have no reason to fight the terrorists there. There is no agreement; there is no negotiation. There is an unequivocal Israeli demand which will not change."
PM Ehud Olmert: Good afternoon. I just had a working meeting with the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr. Mirek Topolánek, which dealt with a broad range of topics – both bilateral topics related to the relations between Israel and the Czech Republic and also topics related to the important status and role the Czech Republic plays as a leading country in the European Union, and ahead of its tenure as head of the European Presidency beginning in 2009.
The relations between the Czech Republic and Israel are outstanding, and are based on a tradition of many years. These relations excel in regard to economic cooperation, the expansion of the scope of trade and our impressive political and international partnership, which provides us with tremendous satisfaction, and I hope also for you.
During our conversation today, we discussed various bilateral issues, and naturally also dealt with the subject of the political negotiations currently being conducted between Israel and the Palestinians; Israel’s determined struggle against Palestinian terror which originates in Gaza; and our determination to continue this struggle without compromise until the daily threat to Israel’s residents in the south ceases. I explained our policy and our needs to the Prime Minister, and I heard his opinion regarding issues related to the continuation of political negotiations.
During our conversation we agreed that Israel and the Czech Republic will establish a national joint fund for research and development which will deal with various issues in which both countries share a common interest, including subjects such as biotechnology, advanced technology, pharmacology, the development of weapons against terror and other issues. The details will of course be finalized by the Prime Minister’s and my assistants soon, but I certainly attribute great importance to our partnership in research and development with a leading, advanced, modern, and successful European country such as the Czech Republic. This is certainly a very important step which will no doubt characterize the good atmosphere in which the Prime Minister’s visit with us here is taking place.
During the coming days, the Prime Minister will continue his visit and hold more meetings, and I hope he will take back home to his country the message of our government today – a message of determination and resolve with regard to our struggle against terror organizations and the murders carried out in the south and in the center of the country, as well as our profound commitment to continuing the political process, and to providing a genuine chance to at least reach an outline to a political solution on which both we and the Palestinians can agree during 2008.
Question: Mr. Olmert, there are all kinds of reports relating to the fact that there is no more firing from Gaza. Has a truce with Hamas been obtained, and if so, are the Egyptians involved? What role is Egypt playing?
PM Olmert: Several days ago, I said that we do not wake up in the morning and look for a reason to fire at terrorists in Gaza. We fire because they fire at us; we fight because they fight us. If terror stops, if the Kassams stop landing on the residents of Sderot, and the Grad missiles stop landing on the residents of Ashkelon and the Gaza envelope communities and they return to a life of quiet and tranquility; if there is no more terrorist activity; if there will be no more weapons smuggling; if there are no violent actions directed at Israel – Israel will have no reason to fight the terrorists there.
The Minister of Defense repeated this statement today, and my statements from several days ago – as well as those today – accurately reflect Israel’s policy. There is no agreement; there is no negotiation, neither directly or indirectly. There is an unequivocal Israeli demand which will not change, and if this demand is met, in any case negotiations will not be necessary.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, yesterday during the annual situation assessment, Army Intelligence estimated that there exists a possibility that Syria will leave the "axis of evil" if Israel negotiates towards an agreement regarding the Golan Heights and if the United States supports Syria. What do you think of this evaluation, and is there a genuine chance that you will follow this line of thinking?
PM Olmert: Yesterday we heard the annual intelligence assessment from all the intelligence branches of Israel. Naturally, this was a confidential discussion, and therefore I cannot refer to what I think is being said and regarding the content of the assessments presented. I can only tell you that: first, naturally the security assessment discusses dangers more than it does Israel’s capabilities, and therefore the publication of details given out of context of the intelligence assessment can present an unbalanced picture regarding the real situation.
As I said, the State of Israel has answers with tremendous strength to all the threats we face, and from this perspective, neither the State of Israel nor its residents have reason to be concerned. With regard to the possibility of peace dialogue on the Syrian matter, I have always made myself clear so that I cannot be mistaken. We are interested in peace with Syria; the Syrians well know what they must do for this as we know what we must do, and I hope that the Syrians will be able to do what is necessary so that it will be possible to hold genuine talks so that we can advance towards peace.