Olmert: Capitulating to blackmail invites terror
At start of cabinet meeting, prime minister clarifies, 'we have no intention of surrendering to any type of extortion'; stresses 'I instructed IDF, defense establishment to hurt anyone bearing responsibility for acts of terror.' Before meeting, Olmert and Peretz discuss expansion of Gaza operation
Eight days after the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the start of the cabinet meeting Sunday morning that "we have no intention of capitulating to any kind of extortion. Capitulation means inviting the next act of terror."
According to Olmert, "I instructed the Israel Defense Forces and the security establishment to hurt anyone who bears responsibility for acts of terror. No one will get away."
Olmert added that he had spoken earlier with Gilad Shalit's father, Noam.
"I updated him and the family on the latest developments, on the information we possess and on the steps we are taking to bring about the release of their son. The people of Israel support the Shalit family members, who are displaying admirable self-control and restraint."
Referring to the efforts to release Shalit, the prime minister said: "I have instructed the cabinet and the government to do everything, and when I say everything I mean everything. Gilad is being held by a bloodthirsty gang which is also hurting the Palestinian population."
"The Israeli government has no interest in hurting the Palestinian population, but with all our regret over what is happening, we are first and foremost responsible to take care of the wellbeing and safety of the citizens of Israel," he added.
Olmert took advantage of the discussion to thank IDF soldiers, the Shin Bet and other representatives of the defense establishment who attended the meeting, for their efforts in the Gaza Strip in the past week.
This week, the prime minister is anticipated to increase the pressure on Hamas officials in the PA and in Damascus in an attempt to secure Shalit's release. Also, it is not out of the question for Israel to expand ground operations in the Gaza Strip, in an effort to release the soldier and to stop Qassam launchers' infrastructures.
After Olmert's remarks, Defense Minister Amir Peretz briefed the ministers on the recent developments in the kidnapping affair, stressing that "there is full cooperation between myself and the prime minister."
Peretz, Olmert meet
Prior to the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz met to discuss developments in Operation Summer Rains. The defense minister briefed the prime minister about the IDF deployment in and around the Gaza strip, as well as the possible entry of infantry, armored corps or engineer corps forces into the area if needed.
"The decision to expand the operation to northern Gaza rests with the prime minister," said defense establishment sources.
IDF in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to brief the prime minister, in the cabinet meeting, regarding the political efforts being made on the international front, taking place concurrent with the military operation. She will report on the responses of four countries who have expressed opposition to Israeli operations, headed by Sweden, who called their Israeli ambassador in order to request the release of Palestinian ministers (arrested in the recent IDF operation.)
Norway, Turkey and France also expressed disapprobation for the operation.
However, Minister Livni will update the other ministers that there has been no general outcry against Israel, and that most nations recognize its sovereign right to self-defense. Additionally, she will discuss her imminent visits to Russia - where, among other things, she will meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – and to Finland, the current president of the European Union.
Minister Eitan Cabel said before the cabinet meeting that he is not sure Hamas ministers and parliament members should be released if and when Corporal Gilad Shalit is freed.
Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said that he does not regret the fact that the prime minister and defense minister did not consult the government members and update them on the arrests of Hamas members.
"The government does not distinguish between terrorists due to their roles," he said.