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Wednesday, January 24, 2007
PM Olmert's Address at 2007 Herzliya Conference: still time to stop Iran

Translation - Israel Government Press Office

"Israel is not spearheading the struggle against the Iranian threat. This
threat must be dealt with seriously and responsibly, first and foremost by
the major powers and by other key nations."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Address at the 2007 Herzliya Conference
January 24, 2007

Distinguished Guests,

I cannot speak tonight without referring to the events of the past day, and
the Attorney General's decision to hold a hearing for the President in light
of the possibility that serious charges may be filed against him. In these
circumstances, I have no doubt that the President cannot continue to fulfill
his role and he should leave the President's Residence. This is a sad day
for the State of Israel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, exactly one year ago less one day, I had the privilege
to stand at this podium, at the final session of the Herzliya Conference as
Acting Prime Minister, in place of Ariel Sharon, who days earlier had fallen
into a coma from which he has yet to awaken. In that speech, I expressed my
profound prayer, and that of all those present, as well as the entire
nation, that Arik Sharon would return to us. I have carried this hope and
this prayer since then.

Today, I would like to focus on a subject which I believe is the most
important one, and which was one of the main points of discussion during
this Conference over the past few days. This subject is one with
significant repercussions for the State of Israel and the region in the next
decade. I will present you with a report of the state of the Iranian

Today, there is not one among us who does not sense the dangers inherent in
this threat, not only to Israel, but also to the future of the region and to
the stability of the world order.

Every Israeli government over the past decade acted vigorously to improve
our ability to track Iran's intentions, increase international awareness of
the threat, mobilize international support to stop external assistance of
the Iranian plans and prepare appropriate options in the event that these
efforts prove unsuccessful in the end.

We achieved considerable accomplishments in each of these areas; however let
us not delude ourselves: the primary goal which must be realized still lies

For many long years, we have followed Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear
weapons, in the guise of a civilian nuclear program. They are working
through secret channels in a number of sites spread out across Iran. In the
past few years, we have been witness to especially intense Iranian activity
on two tracks - the overt and the covert.

Iranian support of Palestinian terror - through financial support, provision
of weapons and knowledge, both directly and through Syria - Iranian
assistance of terror in Iraq, the exposure of the capabilities which reached
the Hizbullah from Iran during the fighting in Lebanon and the assistance
which they offered just recently to Hamas, have demonstrated to many the
seriousness of the Iranian threat.

This activity has created an opposing front, which includes, in varying
intensities, all the permanent members of the UN Security Council; Arab
states such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan; and other
key countries in the West, such as Germany and Japan. This front is acting
to unite forces and prevent this threat from becoming a reality.

Recently, I returned from an important visit to China, and thus ended a
round of diplomatic visits. I met with all the leaders of countries which
serve as permanent members in the Security Council, and other key countries.
The Iranian topic was at the top of our agenda and at the core of the
meetings I held, and which various ministers and other professional
officials regularly hold.

In all the contacts I have had, there has been clear agreement that Iran
cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons or the material to produce

The Security Council's discussion of the Iranian situation and its
acceptance of Resolution 1737 are important steps, which brought together
all the members of the Security Council. The Resolution was achieved
following intense and complex diplomatic efforts. Many parties took part in
it, including several agencies in the State of Israel, both on a political
level and at a professional level. We know that our efforts contributed
greatly to the result.

It is clear to everyone that a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue is
the preferred solution. We also prefer such an outcome. The direction
which the majority of the international community leans towards is a
solution which can bear fruit, as long as it is done with the necessary
ingenuity and determination, while meticulously adhering to the minimum
requirements on which there can be no compromise.

Assuming that all the steps which will now be taken (and those which are
already being taken) by the international community are sharper, more
significant, clearer and more vigorous, the need to adopt more demanding and
harsher solutions in the future will be reduced. Those who believe, as we
do, that a diplomatic solution is preferable, must now muster their strength
to exert pressure on Iran and thus stay the course until change is achieved.

To turn a blind eye now, while ignoring reality, dragging one's feet, and
attempting to reach dangerous compromises while avoiding taking clear steps,
those of us who wish to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power will,
down the road, not be left with any choice but to take much more severe
steps in the future.

I wish to clarify - Iran is very vulnerable and sensitive to international
pressure, despite its defiant, arrogant and provocative stance, and it is
already paying the ever increasing price of this behavior, a price which
will only increase if it continues in its policy. As serious as the Iranian
threat is, the threat of nuclear attack on Israel is by no means imminent.

At this stage, there is still time, while not unlimited, to stop Iran's
intention of becoming a nuclear power which threatens its adversaries, first
and foremost, Israel. We are not complacent, we cannot be complacent, and
we are responding to the Iranian threats with the necessary seriousness.

Israel is not spearheading the struggle against the Iranian threat. This
threat must be dealt with seriously and responsibly, first and foremost by
the major powers and by other key nations.

We are at the forefront of the fight to place this issue on the top of the
agendas of world leaders and international public opinion. It is our duty
to point out the dangers and help in finding solutions.

The Jewish people, on whom the scars of the Holocaust are deeply etched,
cannot allow itself to again face a threat against its very existence. In
the past, the world remained silent and the results are known. Our role is
to prevent the world from repeating this mistake.

This is a moral question of the highest degree. There is a moment during
which any rule among the routine diplomatic rules becomes irrelevant. When
the leader of a country announces, officially and publicly, his country's
intention to wipe off the map another country, and creates those tools which
will allow them to realize their stated threat, no nation has the right to
weigh its position on the matter. This is an obligation of the highest
order, to act with all force against this plot.

We have nothing against the Iranian people, we are not the enemy of the
Iranian people and we have no interest in conflict with Iran. In the past,
before the takeover by the radical factions of the country with its
exceptional tradition and impressive abilities, we had close and friendly

The Iran of today, whose leadership is motivated by religious fanaticism and
ideological extremism, has chosen a policy of confrontation with us and
threatens to wipe Israel off the map of nations. It supports terror and
undermines stability in the region. The Iranian regime, in its aspiration
to regional hegemony, bears responsibility for the riots perpetrated by the
Hizbullah today to bring down the Lebanese government.

Threats, hostility and fighting are not our way. Our aspiration was, and
will always be, to live in peace with our neighbors, near and far. We will
never reject a hand, offered in all sincerity, towards genuine peace, by any
nation. For this we yearn.

At the same time, our desire for peace should not be interpreted as
weakness, but rather as a source of strength. Anyone who threatens us, who
threatens our existence, must know that we have the determination and
capability of defending ourselves, responding with force, discretion and
with all the means at our disposal as necessary. We will not place the
lives of our people, the life of our country, at risk.

We have the right to full freedom of action to act in defense of our vital
interests. We will not hesitate to use it. I do not suggest that anyone
mistakes our restraint and responsibility, or presume that it will harm our
determination and capability to act when necessary.

The Iranian issue preoccupies me and my thoughts constantly. I am
coordinating the handling of this matter and follow up on it on a daily
basis, of one mind with the ministers involved in the matter and in
coordination with the relevant agencies and ministries.

Faced with the Iranian threat there is not, never was and will never be any
difference between opposition and coalition, between right, center and left.
We are all united in this regard and the people stand behind us, united and
ready to face the dangers lurking at Israel's doorstep.

There is no human experience we have not undergone. There is no affliction,
threat, hatred, jealousy, envy, persecution, violence and bloodshed which
have not been seared into our flesh. With unparalleled strength, we built
our lives and established a glorious country.

No force in the world can destroy us - and there will never be. We refuse
to be dragged into an atmosphere of collective, self-induced fear. We will
not allow the people to sink into depression and insecurity. We have
immense strength. We have nothing to fear and we will not be afraid.

All of us understand the weight of responsibility and the importance of the
hour related to this sensitive subject. Together, through joint internal
effort, by joining forces with the world and by speaking in one, responsible
voice at home - not overly excited, but rather clear and determined - we
will stand up to nuclear threats and prevail.

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