Acting PM remarks from his joint press conference with President Katsav
Photo by GPO 

Following are Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks from his joint press conference this morning with President Moshe Katsav:

"I would like to make just one comment.  Last night, I ordered all security elements in the State of Israel to use special measures in order to deal with the first signs of terrorist activity, which we are seeing in various areas.  We will use an iron fist against any attempt to resume terrorist activity wherever the first signs of such activity may be seen, in the Gaza Strip, as well as in Judea and Samaria.  We will use far-reaching measures on all roads and highways in sensitive areas.  We will not hesitate to take any step that may be necessary in order to deny terrorist organizations’ attempts to resume terrorist activities that could harm the citizens of the State of Israel.  There are no restrictions on the security establishment in any action that may be necessary to strike at terrorism."

In response to a question on Al-Qaeda: "There certainly are attempts by terrorist elements, including those from abroad, to spread their wings in areas close to us.  I have not heard Abu Mazen’s remarks and I do not know upon what basis these statements were made.  I can promise that Israeli intelligence is monitoring all attempts by terrorist elements to infiltrate our region."

In response to a question on the firing of Kassam rockets: "Our region is one tainted by terrorism and therefore we are fighting terrorism.  As I have said, according to explicit instructions that I recently gave the security establishment, we are systematically stepping up our war: There are no longer any restrictions on the security establishment regarding counter-terrorist actions, anywhere, in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria.  Since it is certainly possible to monitor things since this activity began, it is being implemented successfully, without hesitation and thus it will continue.  There is no day on which security elements do not successfully carry out preventive actions and foil attempts by various elements to perpetrate acts of terrorism, including the firing of Kassam rockets.  True, the firing of Kassam rockets has not stopped completely but the scope is far smaller than it might have been if it weren’t for the constant, ongoing preventive actions, which have results on the ground and as a result of which there have been many casualties, including among leading terrorists.  This activity will continue.  I gave clear, unequivocal instructions to all security elements: There are no restrictions, whatever needs to be done in order to reach anywhere, to anyone, in order to prevent terrorist actions, will be done, and has already been done, without hesitation.  I am certain that in the end, that this will be reflected in the scope of violent actions perpetrated against us."

In response to a question on Al-Qaeda: "I don’t know upon what basis Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Abu Mazen made his remarks.  We know of, and are monitoring, attempts by international terrorist elements to infiltrate areas close to us.  One must not forget that Islamic Jihad and Hamas are also part of the global terrorist movement, and have always received support and assistance from international terrorist elements, thus the ability to discern a link between terrorist elements in the territories and international terrorism is neither surprising nor new.  We are monitoring such matters and this constitutes a main part of our war against the terrorist organizations."

In response to a question on the issue of terrorism before the elections: "I assume that among terrorist elements that there are many that would like to act precisely ahead of the elections with the intention of influencing their results.  Extremist elements among the Palestinians are very uncomfortable that the State of Israel is led by a movement or a person who can enlist widespread international support for Israel that creates a very solid international front in support of our position, as we need to see in recent weeks.  The international front supports the principles that I formulated following the rise of Hamas.  It weighs very heavily on the extremist Palestinian groups and there are certainly those among them that would like to step up terrorist activities in order to affect the outcome of the elections.  I trust Israelis’ responsibility and good sense to know that we are fighting against terrorism with full force and, along with this, that we will know how to maintain the broad international front of support for Israel as has indeed been the case.  Israelis won’t be led astray after extremist Palestinian elements that are interested, perhaps, in an Israeli government that isolates the State of Israel in the world."

In response to a question regarding democracy in the Arab world: "We know that most violent terrorist activity these days is perpetrated by Islamic Jihad.  Democracy built on terrorism is doubtful from the start.  The question is not if the voting process was technically according to the rules that are recognized in democratic countries, with ballot boxes, with secrecy, but what forces formed this process?  As soon as the force representing such a process is a terrorist force, then the pretensions of speaking on behalf of democracy are, in my view, meaningless.  Is this region, or are the Arab countries, incapable of holding democratic processes?  I think that this is too sweeping and far-reaching a conclusion.  But the burden of the proof is certainly on them and the burden of caution is on us.  We are aware but wary and know what to do so as to bar any of these elements from gaining a foothold that could threaten our existence.  We are not afraid for the existence of the State of Israel from any sort of Palestinian element.  We know how to fight each one of them and all of them at once and we have done so with great success in the past five years and if it is necessary, we will do so for as long as it takes."

In response to a question on Abu Mazen: "We always say and believe that it is necessary to maintain any arrangement that creates the possibility of future dialogue.  Dialogue is for those who want to make peace and war is for those who use terrorism.  Abu Mazen is the elected Chairman of the PA, he was elected by a decisive majority of the Palestinian public and as such, he is the Chairman of the PA and the State of Israel has no personal war against him and we have no intention of acting against Abu Mazen.  However, in the parliamentary elections, Hamas movement representatives received a decisive majority.  They do not want to recognize the State of Israel and have announced that they have no intention of making peace with us.  Hamas leader Ismail Haniye was appointed by the PA Chairman as the candidate for Prime Minister.  As soon as the PA government is a Hamas government, it becomes the body in accordance with the behavior and principles of which we must act.  Since the PA government is expected to be a Hamas government, it becomes the relevant factor regarding the determination of our position and attitude towards future negotiations.  But we are neither ruling out nor fighting Abu Mazen, the elected  Chairman of the PA.  While we have the respect due him, we are nevertheless disappointed by the fact that instead of fighting terrorism, he has appointed the leader of terrorism as the candidate for Prime Minister."

In response to a question on the war on terrorism: "My instructions to the security establishment are according to developments.  When there is calm, our activity is different than when there is increased terrorist activity.  In recent weeks, we have carried out a long series of unprecedentedly successful counter-terrorist actions.  More than once, cells that sought to fire Kassam rockets were eliminated beforehand and this was on the basis of my personal instructions to prevent terrorist actions.  In recent days we have seen the signs of a desire to increase terrorist activities, therefore and being completely involved in events, I have instructed the security forces to act."

In response to a question on Ismail Haniye: "Regarding Ismail Haniye, we have set three basic conditions before the Palestinian government: 1) The cessation of terrorism and the disarming of terrorist groups; 2) Changing the Hamas Covenant, which does not recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist, and recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist, and 3) Acceptance and recognition of all agreements that have been signed between the PA and the State of Israel.  If these three conditions are met, it will be possible to relate to the Palestinian government.  In the absence of complete and comprehensive agreement to all three conditions, there is no chance that we will hold contacts with the Palestinian government, whatever its composition.  In any case, I want to reassure: I have no intention of meeting with Ismail Haniye; I do have the intention of fighting terrorism if he is involved in it."

In response to a question regarding the international position: "Just to sharpen the point: The international community has a unified front and there is no erosion.  Russian President Vladimir Putin made it very clear to me that he unequivocally supports these three principles and that this is what will be said to the Hamas delegation.  Of course, I rely on our determination and the stability of the international community and I want to believe that Russian President Putin will stick to his position.  In any case, I think and I hope that it would be preferable if Russian President Putin would say that he is committed to these positions than if he would say the opposite.  I am pleased that this is what he has announced."