Former prime minister Ehud Olmert fully supports the policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Gadi Eisenkot in matters relating to Iran’s infiltration into Syria. Olmert declared that it is appropriate and necessary to support the government’s policy, and called on everyone who is unhappy about the penetration of the Iranian army into Syria, which is so close to Israel, to join in supporting the Israel government’s policy.

Olmert was speaking at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem at the Australia, Israel, UK and USA International Institution for Strategic Leadership forum, which was conceived nine years ago by Australian businessman and philanthropist Albert Dadon, who is also the founder of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which each year brings Australian film festivals to Israel, and the Israeli film festivals to Australia.

Though doubtful that the Iranian presence in Syria will lead to a full scale military confrontation with Israel, and confident that the Iranians will eventually understand for themselves that this is not in their best interests, Olmert was sufficiently realistic to say “if they don’t understand, we’ll force them to understand.”

As for the Russian involvement in Syria, Olmert said “until now, the Russians have drawn a very clear distinction between their interests and the fundamental security of Israel.”

Turning to Gaza, Olmert stated that Israel has the full right to resist any infiltration at her borders, especially those recognized by the international community.

It is perfectly legitimate for Israel to take any measures to prevent infiltration, he insisted, but at the same time he was aware the Gazans who are attempting to infiltrate are being pushed by a terrorist organization.

It is unfortunate he continued that in protecting its border, Israel’s image has been damaged. He suggested that perhaps there was a way to have fewer casualties in future, and advised that measures of border protection be adjusted so that damage will be minimal.

The suffering of the people of Gaza, he said, is a vehicle for violence to be taken out against Israel, he said.

With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Olmert did not know what US President Donald Trump’s peace plan might contain, but he said it could succeed only if there are painful concessions on both sides, because that is what could lead to the resumption of negotiations. Neither side should be favored, and negotiations should be direct, without third parties.

Olmert remained optimistic that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is still possible, especially with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

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