Photo: GPO
Olmert in Nahariya
Photo: GPO
Photo: Raanan Ben-Zur
Nahariya hospital's ophthalmology department hit by rocket
Photo: Raanan Ben-Zur
Olmert: Prepare for any scenario
Hint of things to come? Prime minister tours northern hospital, says deadlines should be pushed forward so 'we're ready to receive casualties under all conditions'; Olmert adds north is currently Israel's top priority
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert toured northern Israel Thursday and visited, among other venues, the hospital in Nahariya directly hit by rocket fire during the Lebanon war.


"We must be prepared for (various) scenarios and ready for anything," he said. "We must push forward deadlines and be ready for the possibility of receiving casualties under all conditions."


During his visit, Olmert examined the hospital's fourth floor, which sustained the most damage in the rocket attack. The prime minister observed Lebanon through the giant hole in the wall, which has not yet been renovated, and said: "We must be protected and ready."


"The north and Haifa are at the top of the State of Israel's priority order," he added. "We must act to significantly strengthen the north of the country in order to turn it into paradise."

Olmert during Nahariya visit (Photo: GPO)


Addressing the atmosphere in Israel after the war, including the calls to establish commissions of inquiry, the prime minister said: "At this time we shall prepare for any possible scenario of a threat, in full force, while drawing all the conclusions, with all the investigations and inquiries which may take place. Not with self-flagellation, not with spite, not with self-accusation which the public has had enough of, but by using judgment in order to reach the best outcome."


Olmert, who was accompanied by the hospital's manager, Prof. Shmuel Sasa, added: "The main question which I am dealing with now is how to draw accomplishments from the failures. We plan to greatly boost the north of the country. This is the mission the government has undertaken and I have taken it upon myself."


"The cabinet will convene next week in the north. The ministers are coming here and they do not have to be told to be here. Our aim is not to return the Galilee and the north to routine, but to develop a huge platform for development," he said.


'Turn threat into challenge'

The prime minister estimated that the government would eventually invest about NIS 10 billion (USD 2.3 billion) in rehabilitating and developing the Galilee and the north.


"I am not talking about a plan for another year, I am talking about a plan which will be approved in two weeks. The challenge we are facing is to turn the distress into an opportunity and the threat into a challenge," he said.


"I will demand that the ministries demand additional budgets for the north. We will earmark USD 300 million donated by the Jewish communities for development. We are going to develop the north of the country in ways that have not been seen before. This is the real answer to those who have tried to cast a shadow on the State's existence," Olmert added.


The prime minister mentioned the terror attacks that took place in Jerusalem several years ago: "I am not making comparisons between the Katyushas and the terror attacks I experienced as your colleague in Jerusalem. I would only like to remind you that sometimes we had two attacks a week, like the Sbarro terror attack which claimed the lives of 15 people, and a bus explosion that left 30 people killed. In your swift conduct you reminded me of the way we acted in."


During the visit, Olmert spoke with Yitzhak Kobi, who lost his son, 26-year-old reserve soldier Idan Kobi, during operations in Lebanon.


The father presented Olmert with his son's photos, but didn't say much. "He already understands," the bereaved father said. Olmert, meanwhile, asked to keep the photos with him.


The prime minister ended the visit after meeting with war wounded, including Eitan Hermon, a 30-year-old marathon runner from Kfar Blum who lost his foot in the fighting.


Nahariya Mayor Jackie Sabag said during Olmert's visit: "I heard a few days ago during your visit to the north the question you were asked 'where were you?' I would like to say that you were here with us and I would like to thank you for that."


First published: 24.08.06, 13:22
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