Olmert: Merkel understands need for Gaza operation
Prime minister concludes visit to Berlin, vows Israel doing everything within its power to stop Qassam barrages on south but urges patience. Olmert also denies Israel dragging out negotiations with Palestinians, says there is no desire to see talks 'left' to continue under new US president
BERLIN – "There is no reasonable person or leader who does not understand Israel's need to vie for the defense of its residents. To the best of my judgment (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel too sees that
the situation cannot be left – without an efficient and appropriate response," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters on Tuesday as he concluded his visit to Berlin with his German counterpart.
During the briefing Olmert also addressed the situation in Sderot and Israel's efforts to battle the Palestinian rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. Residents of the battered town recently erected a protest tent in Jerusalem to demand an end to the incessant Qassam and mortar fire on southern Israel.
"We are conducting daily operations against those attacking Sderot. The plight and pain of its residents is the most natural and human of responses. It is impossible not to emphasize with it. We will do everything within our power to ease things for them," the prime minister said, adding that it would be "erroneous and irresponsible" to discuss an exact timetable for bringing an end to the attacks.
"Wars against terror take time; this is the nature of things. There is no one point in time where we can say – we have achieved the objective. I have never presumed to be able to state the exact time and date. I can understand the difficult reality of living day-to-day under such conductions. We are doing everything we can and we will continue to do so alongside our battle against terrorism," he said.
'No talk of an agreement by 2008 at Annapolis'
Olmert stressed his government's determination to continue the current course of dialogue with the Palestinian Authority: "Even at Annapolis (peace conference) it was never decided that we would reach an agreement by 2008. But there is certainly a genuine and serious effort to complete the talks. We have not pushed the issue of (sovereignty over) Jerusalem to the sidelines.
"All I said was that the more complex and sensitive the nature of the matter – the better to put off negotiations over it until such a time when we can create a suitable atmosphere. All the issues at hand
are on the negotiations table. But there is a logical progression of working through them."
The prime minister said that Israel was not dragging out the talks. "We have no desire to leave the negotiations for the coming of a new (US) president. The timetable is crucial due to the degree of urgency. I do not see any Israeli interests that would benefit from a stagnation in the negotiations.