(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met today (Tuesday), 17 January 2006, with President Moshe Katsav, at the latter’s Jerusalem residence. Following are excerpts from Acting Prime Minister Olmert’s answers to questions from journalists after the meeting:

Question: “Can we rely on Europe and America to neutralize Iran’s nuclear aspirations?”

Acting PM Olmert: “The issue of Iran is on the agenda of both the Israeli government and the international community and it is currently being dealt with through close contacts between the government and European governments and America. I believe that there is a way to ensure that non-conventional weapons do not come to be in irresponsible hands that could endanger world security.”

Question: “Is the IDF determined to implement government policy in Hebron and in other illegal outposts?

Acting PM Olmert: “I have instructed Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi and representatives of Attorney-General Meni Mazuz to see to it that all enforcement actions are carried out quickly, according to the law and without any compromises. This is true regarding Hebron and it is true regarding all other places in which there is illegal activity, which we are prepared to neither accept nor countenance.”

Question: “What about other disengagements?”

Acting PM Olmert: “Regarding Government policy while I am responsible for it, we will uphold the Roadmap. I think that it would be a mistake, certainly now, to release someone from responsibilities that he has taken upon himself in the framework of the Roadmap and not to demand of him again and again that he fight terrorism and disarm the terrorist organizations.
While your question is both legitimate and interesting, Government policy – as it has been for the past year – will continue. In accordance with the Roadmap, we demand that the Palestinian Authority fight and disarm the terrorist organizations as a condition for future negotiations. I hope that after their elections, and after the results of their elections, that I will be able to negotiate with Abu Mazen regarding a permanent settlement between us and the Palestinians and that he will honor his commitments.”

Question: “What will Israel do to regarding sanctions on Iran and can sanctions be effective, especially when they are due to raise world oil prices?”

Acting PM Olmert: “I repeat: This issue – in all its various aspects – has been well-known to me for a long time, since I began serving in the Government three years ago; according to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s request and at his behest, I have dealt with this issue intensively. I didn ’t need any preparatory period in order to deal with it now.  The issue on the Israeli government’s agenda and it is certainly on my agenda these days.
We are working responsibly with all elements who need to lead measures in the international arena and we will continue to work with these elements both in Europe and America. In no case and at no stage can the State of Israel allow someone with such malicious intentions towards us to control destructive weapons that could threaten our existence.  The State of Israel will not accept a situation in which there is a threat against us when, in my opinion, Europe and the US cannot accept it. Within this bloc, we will have worked, and we will work, in cooperation and in consultation with these international elements.”

Question: “Do you intend to order the evacuation of illegal outposts?”

Acting PM Olmert: “I am very disturbed by the violent conduct which has recently found expression in Hebron and I have instructed the various elements to work quickly and assertively on this matter and – to the extent that it is necessary – to punish all those who raise their hands against the security forces of the State of Israel. Moreover, we must act in accordance with court orders.  ,As you know, orders have been issued in regard to both Amona and Hebron that prevent the possibility of evacuating the illegal settlement that was there. As soon as the orders are lifted, the enforcement will be carried out without hesitation and without delay. I am currently working in accordance with what I know that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would do and according to what the law requires and according to the policy of the Israeli government, which I am responsible for implementing; therefore, there will be no hesitation. Whoever raises his hand against any police personnel or soldier will be duly punished and will be evacuated from any place that he is present i9n illegally. This is true regarding Hebron, Amona and other places.”

Question: “Was the decision to allow elections in eastern Jerusalem designed to create industrial quiet with the Americans until the elections or is the decision a kind of declaration of intent?”

Acting PM Olmert: “I want to remind you that in both 1996 and 2005, elections were held in Jerusalem. The responsible approach that I supported both in 1996 and in 2005 said that while we do not concede our authority and sovereignty over all parts of Jerusalem, we certainly have an interest in maintaining eastern Jerusalem residents’ link in a Palestinian state an not to the state of Israel. We never thought that the State of Israel’s interest is that all eastern Jerusalem Arabs will participate in the elections in it. It is impossible to deny them the right to vote in Palestinian Authority elections. Since we are not interested in having them vote in Israeli elections, we certainly need them to agree to participate in the Palestinian Authority elections and therefore the decision was correct then and it is still correct today.
We are interested that these elections take place. Ten days ago, I instructed the security forces regarding the elections in eastern Jerusalem. It is important for me to emphasize that this decision was not dependent on any outside factor or external demands but stems from our considerations. The Palestinian Authority elections must be held in order to avoid a situation in which their cancellation would be blamed on any step that Israel has taken.
We have not concealed the fact that Hamas’s participation in these elections is not to our liking. We have said this throughout and under no circumstances will we be accept that the Palestinian Authority’s ineffectualness in running its affairs be blamed on any action that Israel has taken and therefore this was our position. This position is correct, responsible and has won the support of the international community. I assume that most Israelis prefer that eastern Jerusalem Arabs not participate in Israel’s elections but in the elections of the state with they identify, i.e. the Palestinian state.”

Question: “Do you intend to meet Abu Mazen, King Abdallah or the Egyptian President?”

Acting PM Olmert: “I do not rule out the possibility of meetings.
Everything must be in its time. We are not working under pressure but in calm consideration. I have spoken with King Abdallah, Abu Mazen and the Jordanian Prime Minister with whom we have been friends since he was ambassador here.  I am in contact with senior Egyptian officials and matters vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority are at their proper pace, at the proper levels. I am briefed and updated daily. I instruct the various elements what to do and to the extent that it is necessary, I ask to meet with one of these leaders. I do not think that it would be correct for either the country or myself to be hasty regarding meetings for which there is no agenda that would justify them, if there is such an agenda, then matters will be run accordingly.”

Question: “How is the Prime Minister?”

Acting PM Olmert: “I don’t think that it would be proper for me to say anything beyond what the Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital doctors are saying in their official reports. I can tell you that every morning I and everyone on the Prime Minister’s staff, who miss him so much, wake up with the hope of hearing good news and we hope to hear good news and believe there will yet be good news from Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.”

Question: “Did you identify a change in the Russian position on the Iranian issue and therefore dispatch the delegation to Russia?”

Acting PM Olmert: “Russia is certainly one of the factors with whom we are holding contacts on issues related to Iran. There is a continuous dialogue with the Russian government at various levels and there is nothing exceptional about the dialogue that we are currently holding in relation to Iran.”