Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview to Newsweek Magazine ahead of his visit to the United States this week that if Iran doesn’t stop enriching uranium, it will pay dearly.
Olmert’s visit will last six days, during which he will meet with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Olmert clarified that the central issue to be discussed in his meetings will be the Iranian threat. According to Olmert, Iran will not accept any compromise unless they “have good reason to fear the consequences of not reaching a compromise. In other words, Iran must start to fear.”
Olmert added that President Ahmadinejad is a man who is ready to commit crimes against humanity, and he has to be stopped. He also spoke about the situation in the Palestinian Authority and said that President Mahmoud Abbas has consistently shown his opposition to terror and his discomfort with Hamas, but has not done enough to topple the Hamas government.
In a surprising move, the White House has decided not to conduct a joint press conference for Bush and Olmert as is usually done. The assessment is that the Americans did not want Bush to be embarrassed after the incident in Beit Hanoun where 19 Palestinian civilians were killed last week.
Olmert added in the interview that he is ready for a territorial compromise, and the inclusion of Avigdor Lieberman in his government will not change any of his policies in that respect. “The Palestinian issue is on the agenda. There is no way we can ignore it. We have to find the best partner – a lot depends on the Palestinian leadership,” he said.
According to Olmert, the Palestinian unity government will be judged only according to one criterion: “To formally accept Israel’s right to exist, end all terror against Israel, and recognize the [prior] agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Only then I’ll be ready to sit with such a government, even if it includes Hamas representatives.”
When asked about the possibility of Israel releasing Fatah leader in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti who is serving life sentence, Olmert replied that he had made it clear long ago that he was anxious to open up a new dialogue with Abbas and for that purpose. “I’m ready to release many prisoners. Hamas’ inflexible attitude prevents the prisoners from being released because they refuse to let us have our soldier [captured Cpl. Gilad Shalit]. Hamas is not really interested in the wellbeing of its prisoners. They want to topple Abu Mazen at any cost,” Olmert said.