(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)
Following are Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks at his press conference today (Wednesday), 12 July 2006, with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi:
Prime Minister Olmert: This morning, actions were carried out against IDF soldiers in the north. At this time, the security forces are operating in Lebanese territory. The cabinet will convene this evening in order to approve the continuation of the activity.
I want to make it clear: This morning’s events were not a terrorist attack, but the action of a sovereign state that attacked Israel for no reason and without provocation. The Lebanese government, of which Hizbullah is a member, is trying to undermine regional stability. Lebanon is responsible and Lebanon will bear the consequences of its actions.
The State of Israel and its citizens now stand in an hour of trial. We have withstood difficult tests in the past, even more difficult and complex than these. We, the State of Israel, the entire nation, will know how to now overcome those who are trying to hurt us.
Question: Is there cause to prepare the nation for war and will you call for an emergency government?
Prime Minister Olmert: One thing must be understood: This was an act of war without any provocation on the sovereign territory – about which there is no dispute – of the State of Israel. It is absolutely clear to the international community that Israel will respond and that it will respond in an unequivocal fashion that will cause those who started this act of war to bear a very painful and far-reaching responsibility for their actions. Moreover, since these events became known to us, except for a meeting with the Shalit family that was determined in advance, and which was held in my office this morning, with Aviva and Noam Shalit, and except for the meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that I decided not to cancel due to the special circumstances of our relationship and Japan’s international importance and the special importance of Prime Minister Koizumi, who is a global leader, I have been in contact with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, and other security officials; I have issued instructions to the security establishment; I have coordinated with Defense Minister Peretz; naturally, I have not dealt with political, parliamentary, and coalition matters. There will be a time and place for these but not now.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, we are live on IDF Radio. You talk about a response in Lebanon and blame the Lebanese government. May we expect to see here a long-term IDF action on Lebanese soil, and perhaps an IDF presence for long months on Lebanese soil? Another question if you please; there has already been a preliminary Syrian response to this incident. A Syrian official said that today, the Arab nation’s lost honor has been restored. He referred to the sonic boom over Assad’s palace and said that this is our response. A final question, we are already hearing Hizbullah talking about a prisoner release deal. What can you tell us about this? Will you agree to some sort of negotiations on such a deal?
Prime Minister Olmert: I don’t think that there is any reason to enter into either definitions or promises. The IDF is operating in Lebanon. The cabinet will convene this evening in order to approve additional IDF responses in Lebanon. I am certain that these responses will be felt in the right places and with the necessary strength following the murderous provocation that came to the State of Israel from Lebanese territory.
Regarding the Syrian response, throughout the recent period, Syria has proven that it is a terrorist government. It supports terrorism. It is a government that backs terrorism. It is a government that encourages the murderous actions both of terrorists located on its soil and those beyond it. Of course, there will have to be appropriate preparation in order to deal with the conduct of the Syrian government. We have made it clear throughout that we will not give in to extortion and that we will not negotiate with terrorists regarding the lives of Israeli soldiers. This was true yesterday and it is true today as well."