Following the stir caused by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's
remarks, that the victory in Lebanon
will provide a momentum
for the realignment, his aides decided Wednesday evening to soften the harsh criticism and urgently searched for Knesset Member Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party).
"The fighting in Lebanon has nothing to do with future diplomatic moves in other arenas," Olmert clarified in a conversation with Eitam.
MK Eitam later told Ynet: "He understood that he made a mistake. He realized that he truly harmed the national unity."
In an interview to the Associated Press, the prime minister said that the creation of a new border, which will create stability in the region and will prove that terror has been defeated, will help in creating the atmosphere needed for disengaging from the Palestinians.
It won't be easy but I am ready to do it, Olmert said.
The prime minister's remarks caused a political and public stir. Ynet has learned that reservists affiliated with the Right began calling on people to sign a petition against Olmert.
Eitam was taking part in the reading of the Book of Lamentations, on the eve of Tisha B'Av, while officials at the Prime Minister's Office were looking for him. Olmert clarified in his conversation with Eitam that "in these days, when the people of Israel remember the (Temple) destruction, we must maintain full unity in the military and home front in order to succeed in the difficult war."
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying that "the prime minister spoke to MK Effie Eitam following the remarks related to him in the foreign news agencies. He made it clear to MK Eitam, who expressed his protest in the name of broad right-wing groups, that he (the prime minister) was only engaged in running Israel's battle in the north and south."
Eitam: Olmert made a mistake
The prime minister noted that the war was the result of an attack initiated by Hizbullah
and had nothing to do with diplomatic moves in the future in other arenas.
Sources at the Prime Minister's Office made it clear that Olmert values and respects MK Eitam.
"The prime minister sought to stress that he did not come to bolster the support for the realignment. He made it clear that these were not the issues that should have emerged from this interview," a source said.
MK Eitam said that he had been receiving worrying messages from the field all day.
"From the moment the prime minister's remarks were published, I was approached by dozens of rabbis, heads of preparatory programs and reserve soldiers, who told me in an unequivocal manner that they are considering not to head north and join the war. I explained to the prime minister that his actions may cause real damage to the war efforts," he said.
Olmert asked to convey a message through Eitam to the religious public. In the conversation between the two, he said: "I decided to issue a clarification. I am not dealing with anything apart from exerting efforts in winning the war."
Since the war broke out, MK Eitam, who was the commander of IDF forces in southern Lebanon, has become very close to the prime minister and the defense minister, who have often invited him to update talks and consultations.
"From the conversation I had with the prime minister I understand in an unequivocal manner that he will not deal with the realignment plan at all now. He made a big mistake and I helped him understand its ramifications. His clarification does not remove many fears for the future, but we will conduct the arguments only after the war," Eitam said.
According to Olmert's media advisor, Assaf Shariv, the prime minister said in his conversation with Eitam: "I have no plan to split the nation in these difficult days of a war in the north and the south. I have no plans to refer to future arenas. We are no busy with the war imposed on us by Hizbullah. This is the most important thing and I have no plan to deal with anything else in these difficult days."
The Tzohar Rabbis organization harshly protested the prime minister's remarks on Wednesday. According to the organization, Olmert was "arousing the fire of political disagreements in the midst of a difficult war. The prime minister is cynically taking advantage of the justified war for his political needs and is hurting the public's will to unite at the time of crisis and forgo disagreements."
"On a day in which the Jewish people mark the destruction of the Temples and the destruction of the national house due to hatred in light of bitter political arguments, it would have been appropriate for the prime minister to express and strengthen the things shared by the different parts of the nation and not the things that separate and polarize," the organization said.
Ronny Sofer contributed to the report