BERLIN (AP) – Israel’s prime minister vowed Tuesday to fight terrorism from Hamas-controlled Gaza “in every possible manner which will be effective,” and underlined his country’s belief that Iran is still seeking nuclear weapons.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has been among those leading efforts to allay concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak indicated his country might try to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza, and Hamas leaders went into hiding after Israel threatened to hunt them down in the battle over daily rocket salvos.
“The Israeli government under my leadership is absolutely determined to respond to the challenge of terrorism from Gaza in every possible manner which will be effective,” Olmert said at a news conference. “We will not hesitate, we will not stop, we will do what’s necessary to be done.” “I know that there are lots of speculations, … discussions, … suggestions and propositions everywhere of what we can do exactly,” he added. “That, I’m afraid, I will not share with you.”
At the same time, he said Israel “will continue our negotiations with the Palestinian authority” under West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
In his talks with Merkel, Olmert said he touched on “prospects for further understandings which hopefully will lead to the basis of an agreement” with the Palestinians, and said that “we try to move on forward with the easier” issues. He did not elaborate.
Olmert also brushed aside suggestions that Iran was no longer a danger after a U.S. intelligence report in December found that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Israel still “is of the opinion that the Iranians are moving forward with their plans to create a capacity for non-conventional weapons,” Olmert told reporters. “Nothing that we know has changed our attitude on this issue.” He welcomed the “leadership” of Merkel and the British and French leaders in seeking to resolve concerns over Iran.
“This is mainly the challenge of the big powers; Israel inevitably is … very interested in these efforts and we will join forces and cooperate with our senior friends in order to help a possible solution that will deter the Iranians from continuing their program,” the prime minister added.
Asked whether a military response was still an option, he cited U.S. President George W. Bush as saying that “no option is ruled out.”