Olmert: Israel will pull all Gaza troops as soon as possible
A ceasefire went into effect today. In a powerful Speech by PM Olmert Announcing Ceasefire, Jan. 17: Olmert said:
For weeks I have been watching the people of Israel day and night as we make the unprecedented effort to fight for and realize our right of self-defense. I saw the brave soldiers, our dear and beloved sons; I saw their commanders and the spirit which buoyed them; I saw the residents of the South, their fierce sprit; and the leadership of the mayors who took care to provide for the needs of their residents; I also saw the actions of the Home Front Command, which quietly and efficiently coordinated the assistance campaign for the southern region; and I heard the bereaved families.
Dear families, the things you said, the pain you expressed, the fierce spirit you demonstrated - these are the foundation for the people of Israel’s strength. On behalf of the entire nation, on behalf of the Government of Israel, I share your profound pain and thank you for the encouragement, the strength and the inspiration your strong stance has granted the entire nation.
I also wish to say something to the people of Gaza: even before the military operation began, and during it, I appealed to you. We do not hate you; we did not want and do not want to harm you. We wanted to defend our children, their parents, their families. We feel the pain of every Palestinian child and family member who fell victim to the cruel reality created by Hamas which transformed you into victims.
Your suffering is terrible. Your cries of pain touch each of our hearts. On behalf of the Government of Israel, I wish to convey my regret for the harming of uninvolved civilians, for the pain we caused them, for the suffering they and their families suffered as a result of the intolerable situation created by Hamas.
The understandings we reached with Egypt, the international backing of the United States and the European countries - all these do not ensure that the firing by Hamas will stop. If it completely stops - the IDF will consider withdrawing from Gaza at a time which it deems right. If not, the IDF will continue to act in defense of our residents.
This is the time to convey our appreciation and gratitude, first and foremost to you, Mr. Minister of Defense, for your work, for the tremendous effort you made, for your skill, professionalism and the understanding you demonstrated throughout he operation - thank you very much. I wish to thank the soldiers of the IDF, their commanders, the Head of the Southern Command Yoav Galant, and the Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi; to the Israel Security Agency, its fighters and its head, Yuval Diskin; to the Mossad and its hidden fighters, headed by Meir Dagan; to the Israel Police and the emergency services, Magan David Adom and the Fire Department.
Blessed is the nation with such an army and such security and rescue services.
I wish to express my hope that tonight the first step towards a different reality, one of security and quiet for the residents of Israel, will be taken. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the people of Israel, its fighters and their commanders for the fierceness of spirit and the social solidarity they demonstrated over these past weeks.
This is the secret of our strength - it is the foundation for our power and it is the hope of our future.
An excellent source of information is http://www.theisraelproject.org/ - which disseminates information and sources for journalists seeking an unofficial Israeli perspective on the news. You can also find information there for letters to the editor or to elected officials.
Recent selections there include: U.S., Israel Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Ceasefire