Sunday, January 4, 2009

PM Olmert's Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

"Last Friday afternoon, 2.1.09, I convened the Security Cabinet in order to
decide regarding the continuation of IDF operations in the south.

...The ground action that we began last night, as part of the overall
operation, is designed to establish our aspiration to change the security
reality in the south. IDF forces have gone to strike at the military
infrastructure that Hamas has established and to take control of the areas
from which most of the missiles have been fired at Sderot, Ashkelon, and
Ashdod in recent weeks and months have been launched from. I asked the
security establishment to tell me how many launches have been directed at
our southern communities from the areas that the IDF is now in. The answer
is astounding: The vast majority of launches were from those areas - 220
alone in the week since the operation began.

In a responsible and determined country, it cannot be that the home front
will be subject to attack and a daring, strong and well-trained military
does not defend it. Last Friday, we decided in accordance with a proposal
that I submitted along with Foreign Minister Livni and Defense Minister
Barak, as per the recommendation of IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi
and the security services, to send our boys to defend their parents,
brothers, sisters and neighbors that they left at home. We did not reach
this conclusion lightly. For many months, we gave the calm a chance in the
hope of avoiding a wide-ranging military operation. Our hopes were dashed.

I would like to dedicate a few words to the parents and family members of
the IDF soldiers and security service personnel active in the Gaza Strip. I
have thought about you a lot since the operation began, especially since the
decision about a ground operation approached. I asked myself and my
ministerial colleagues if there was some other step, outlet or effort that
we had not yet tried before sending our boys into a place fraught with such
risks - from which some of them may not return. This morning, I can look
each one of you in the eyes and say that the Government did its utmost
before deciding on the operation.

This operation was unavoidable.

Parallel to the military operation, a diplomatic campaign is also being
waged. In recent days, I have been in continuous contact with most leaders
of the free world. I briefed them on Israel's position and goals and I
spoke with them about the unavoidable constraints that caused the State of
Israel to reach the conclusion that there was no alternative to the use of
force in order to bring about a change in the situation. The diplomatic
arena is not simple - even our best friends are worried and concerned, but
the vast majority of them understand and are supportive.

I am greatly encouraged by the position of US President George Bush, who
told me that we must ensure that Hamas not only stops firing but is also
unable to do so in the future.

Israel is not at war with the Palestinian people in Gaza. They are not our
enemies - they are also victims of violent and murderous repression by those
same terrorist organizations. To them I say, on behalf of all of Israel,
that we will not allow a humanitarian crisis to be created in the Gaza
Strip. We will help supply food and medicines like any enlightened and
moral country must do.

Israel has no interest in opening additional fronts - neither in the east or
the north - apart from that in the south. However, caution is necessary
and, therefore, I have instructed the security establishment to be on the
highest alert and to be prepared for any development, lest anyone think this
is his opportunity to exploit Israel's focus on the southern front in order
to try and change the stable reality that has been created in the wake of
past events.

I appeal to the citizens of Israel. These are not quiet or simple times.
Our boys are on the battlefield. Let us be worthy of their courage and
sacrifice. Let us maintain our composure. As a society, we will comport
ourselves with the responsibility and consideration that we know is called
for in moments of decisive national importance. My heart and that of the
entire nation is with our fighters. We rely on GOC Southern Command
Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant and his soldiers and commanders on the battlefield to
carry out their mission. The Cabinet specially commends IDF Chief-of-Staff
Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi and ISA Director Diskin for preparing and training our
forces, gathering intelligence and precisely carrying out their missions.

We, in the political leadership, will try to give the public reliable and
responsible real-time information. We will lay aside our rivalries,
disagreements and struggles. Today, more than any other day, the nation of
Israel is united."