Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sat down on Monday with high-school students from the northern city of Nahariya and answered some tough questions about the war.
"We didn't know if they were alive and it is preferable that they spend a little more time in captivity than having more soldiers die," said Olmert when asked why Israel ended the war without receiving kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev back.
The question came from an 11th grader who studies at the 'Amal' school in Nahariya, Ehud Goldwasser's alma mater.
Olmert gave it particular consideration: "What were we to do? Keep fighting and turn dozens of families into bereaved ones? Do this so that they, and I hope that they are alive, will spend a little less time in captivity? So they will spend a little more time in captivity."
"We are working relentlessly for their release, day and night. I'm in contact with the captives' families, but I don't think that I should have risked dozens of fatalities and bereaved families, because on the 14th of August I couldn't bring them back," he stated.
Olmert and the students on Monday (Photo: GPO)
The organization for the release of the kidnapped soldiers said that the families of the captive soldiers asked the PM to clarify his statements. "It has been made clear that the prime minister isn't belittling the time our sons are held captive and that his comments were made in response to a specific question regarding the ceasefire agreement. We are satisfied with the answer, though we demand that the pm tone down his remarks. This is the second time this week we've heard inappropriate comments regarding the situation and status of the captives from him." Family representatives also said that they expect Olmert to "talk less and do more."
The students were invited to meet the prime minister after he received their letters to him on the matter of the kidnapped soldiers. Eden Brumer, a student who attended the meeting, said: "The prime minister told us that like in every war a lot of mistakes were made and that he is aware of this. He sounded very confident and said that Israel is prepared for any emergency situation that may arise."
'Don't hang false hopes on ceasefire'
From the high school in Nahariya Olmert left for a Kadima party meeting, during which he warned that the current political situation created by the ceasefire does not necessarily constitute a chance for dramatic change.
The PM further said that "the basic facts are known and that false hope should not be hung on them nor should premature fears be planted. Hamas has lost 400 of its men since June, which is a heavy blow to them. It cannot be said that we forced this restraint on ourselves. Having said this, there is a new
situation, one which may be short-lived but it is without a doubt positive."
"Once Israel responds however, this ceasefire will be over. It may come to that but we must not allow ourselves to be dragged into it. Israel will always have the possibility to respond. The international supports this move, but we will not allow a situation where Israelis are in danger just for somebody's smile. If, heaven forbid, we reach a situation were the ceasefire is ended – the international community will treat the matter differently than if we hadn't acted as we have," he added.
Attila Somfalvi, Ilan Marciano and Moran Rada contributed to this report