"We are strange, we Israelis. We're sad even when we win at war," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview published Tuesday by the Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera.
Olmert spoke of what he considers the accomplishments of the Second Lebanon War, a year on. "The situation in southern Lebanon is fundamentally different than it was a year ago. The Lebanese army is deployed in the areas, along with a multi-national force, UNIFIL.
"Hizbullah no longer threatens residents along the border. They lost their will for an additional fight with Israel. Their leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and his senior commanders are hiding or not living as free men."
When asked about Foreign Secreatry Tzipi Livni, who asked Olmert to resign a few months ago, following the publication of a partial report by the Winograd Commission, the prime minister responded that "politics fill ambitious people.
"I explained to her that she can't be a member of the government if she doesn't support the policy of its leader," added Olmert. "She decided to stay. I am a man who is willing to forgive: If someone makes a mistake and acknowledges it, there's no need to be vengeful."
'Hamas a destructive force'Regarding the possibility that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will ask to reconcile with Hamas, Olmert said that he "doesn't believe in appeasing Hamas.
"Hamas is a destructive force, an extreme, fundamentalist organization, which concentrates on how to continue the struggle against Israel and is ready, as the world and Abbas saw, to kill Palestinians, too.
"Compromise with Hamas is compromise with terror. The creation of a unity government with terrorists is the opposite strategy of one that could bring peace to the Middle East.
"I can only quote Abbas himself, who said 'I will never sign another agreement with them, I will always fight with them.' I can only hope that he will stick to his word," Olmert said.
It appears that the region is moving towards a solution of three states for two people, the interviewer said. "The solution is still two states for two people: a Palestinian state and a Jewish state," Olmert said.
"We're not stupid. We're not interested in separating Gaza from the West Bank. We know that there are a million and a half Palestinians living in the West Bank. How can they be separated from the rest?
"Gaza, which we left in 2005, is temporarily controlled by Hamas. The sides are fighting amongst themselves. I don't believe I need to be the one to find answers or solutions for the Palestinians about how they can stop murdering one another. I am willing to cooperate with moderates who are interested in peace."
Willing to meet with AssadIn response to a question about releasing Marwan Barghouti in order to strengthen Fatah, Olmert responded, "we're not even considering it."
He did, however, consider peace with Syria., saying "I've announced my desire for peace with Syria many times and there's only one way to get there: direct talks. But President (Bashar) Assad is interesting in talking to the United States and wants to use Israel to meet that goal."
Regarding the threat of the Iranian nuclear program, Olmert noted that "Tehran has repeatedly spoken of its growing nuclear program and its desire to get rid of Israel. The Jewish people have learned that, when someone threatens to get rid of us, we should take notice."
However, the prime minister did not indicate any readiness for Israelis military action. "Why does the answer have to be military?" he asked. "The economic sanctions are working and should be continued. President George Bush said he has not rejected the possibility of a US military attack, so you should talk to him."