Although Israel has a thriving economy and a more secure northern border, the country's main problem comes from the direction of "those who explicitly and constantly talks about wiping Israel off the map," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a convention held by the Orthodox Union (OU) in Jerusalem Wednesday evening.
"The main problem of Israel is the threats that come from extremists who have not yet acquiesced with the very existence of Israel. We have problems with terror, we have problems with the Palestinians, I'm absolutely certain that the fighting in the north has improved the security situation in the north," Olmert said.
"But this is not the main problem of Israel," he added. Hinting at Iran, Olmert said: "The main problem is the threat that comes from those who openly and explicitly talk about wiping us off the map. And I want to tell you that there are two aspects to this problem. One is the physical threat; the potential possession of non-conventional weapons by an enemy that explicitly and constantly talks about wiping Israel off the map. But the other aspect that is not less important and significant is the moral aspect."
In one of the clearest warnings regarding tensions with Iran, Olmert said: "We have heard these voices in the past, of leaders of nations, they are talking about the liquidation of the Jewish people. We can't afford to acquiesce, to listen and not to react. And we can't allow anyone, in any place in the world, to continue the routine without responding to the moral challenge of those who are threatening of the very lives of the Jewish people and the State of Israel."
'Iraq without Saddam better for Israel'
Delegates from across North America responded to Olmert's comments with warm applause.
"I had long discussions in America last week about this issue, and I have to tell you that I found understanding and commitment by the great friend of the State of Israel that resides in the White House, George W. Bush," Olmert added.
"I know that some of his policies are controversial in America; particularly in Iraq. You know where I stand... I stand with the president because Iraq without Saddam Hussein is much better for us than Iraq with Saddam Hussein," Olmert said.
The prime minister told delegates that if they "asked Nasrallah what he's thinking about the situation, he'll most likely tell you? that he had he known even one percent of what he had to face, he would have never started. And believe me, Nasrallah would love to return to the 11th of July (before the war), in comparison with what he has to face today."
Olmert reached out to North American Jews, saying: "I always believed all my life in listening to Jews who live outside of Israel."
"I'm certain Israel will be able to cope with the different challenges, and that at any given time, when we need you, you'll be there for us," Olmert told the delegates.
'Where are the rest of our brothers and sister?'
Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski congratulated the OU delegates for coming to Israel, but added: "Where are the rest of our brothers and sisters? How can it be that 60 to 70 percent of Jews of North America have never been here, and probably wont' be here?"
"These are difficult times for the State of Israel, but we'll overcome them," Bielski added, and thanked OU activists for their efforts in helping the State during the Lebanon war by providing aid to northerners.
Speaking to Ynetnews, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the OU, said that while individual members of the organization may have had reservations about certain policies of the government such as the Gaza withdrawal, the OU fully respected the democratically elected leader of Israel, and was glad to invite him to its convention.
David Gandell and Richard Tozman, OU delegates from Montreal, Canada, took part in a visit to northern Israel. "The children are still traumatized by the rockets," Gandell told Ynetnews. "In an activity, some of the kids were asked to draw what affected them the most, and some put the color black. You can feel how difficult it was for them," he added.
Responding to Olmert's speech, a woman from the OU delegation said: "Where was Hashem (God) in Olmert's speech? Why do Israeli leaders never talk about Hashem? Without Him, nothing happens," she added.