In March 2008, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmet met with then Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives John Boehner and several US congressmen. Olmert addressed Operation Cast Lead which was in the final planning states and said that Israel had plans to cause considerable damage to Hamas in Gaza. He then added that the government was considering when and how to act.
Asked whether Israel intends to eliminate Hamas, Olmert replied that the government will not tolerate the continued rocket fire and would act in a manner which would cause "great pain" to Hamas. He noted that Israel may not destroy Hamas but that it could hurt it enough to force the group to consider its actions.
Olmert also praised Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and said he was a decent person, who unlike Arafat truly seeks peace. He nevertheless expressed dissatisfaction over talks between Hamas and Fatah.
When confronted with a question on the attack on the Syrian nuclear plant in Deir ez Zor, the former prime minister said he never publically addressed the matter but noted the fact that gas tanks belonging to Israeli planes were found near the Syrian-Turkish border.
"Bashar is no dummy," he added, since he decided not to respond to the September 2007 event. Olmert said that Syria's mobile missile system were on full alert, but that Assad decided not to order them to fire. "That took discipline," he noted.
Three months ago, internal US administration reports on the attack were exposed by Yedioth Ahronoth. According to foreign reports, Mossad obtained information on the nuclear plant, built for Syria by North Korea, from a laptop stolen from a senior Syrian official. Israel reportedly launched the attack, known to the US, after further intelligence was collected.
Israel apparently asked the US to strike, but it refused due to pressure from then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
According to the reports, the main concern prior to the attack was whether Assad would retaliate and attack Israel. The reports suggest that US and Israeli intelligence elements were certain the Syrian president would open war with Israel.
Der Spiegel reported that following the attack, Olmert sent a calming message to the Syrians via the Turkish prime minister. The message stated that should Assad refrain from retaliating, Israel would "keep a low profile."
Israel was in part concerned over a large number of Syrian Scud missiles able to hit all parts of Israel. Some of those missiles are armed with chemical warheads.
Benjamin Tobias contributed to this report
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