Europe should stop preaching to Israel, says Olmert
By Honor Mahony
Europe should stop "preaching" to Israel about the number of Lebanese casualties caused by its war against Hezbollah, the Israeli prime minister has said.
In an interview with Germany's Welt am Sonntag, Ehud Olmert asked, "Where do they get the right to preach to Israel?"
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He indicated that Europe's criticism of Israel's military attacks against Lebanon was motivated by "prejudice and short-sightedness" rather than by anti-semitism.
"European countries attacked Kosovo and killed ten thousand civilians. Ten thousand! And none of these countries had to suffer a single rocket [attack] beforehand.
"I am not saying it was wrong to intervene in Kosovo, but please - do not preach to us about the treatment of civilians," said Mr Olmert.
A 2000 report by international organisation Human Rights Watch concluded that around 500 civilians were killed by NATO air strikes in 1999.
Praise for Washington
The Israeli leader also indicated that he would not object to German soldiers taking part in any peace-keeping force in southern Lebanon - an issue which for historical reasons is causing great debate in Germany.
"I have said to chancellor Merkel that we would not have any problem with that," said Mr Olmert.
"If such a request is necessary, then I will talk to Angela Merkel," he added referring to the fact that the chancellor would wait for a specific request from Israel before agreeing to commit German soldiers.
In contrast to his criticism of the European stance towards the conflict, Mr Olmert was full of praise for Washington.
"They don't criticise us," he said. "I wish other countries had the courage of president George W. Bush to tell the truth."
Mr Olmert said Israel had not underestimated Hezbollah which has been raining down rockets on Israeli cities.
"We know that they have only shot 3000 rockets and they own 15,000. The question is rather: if Hezbollah had known what the consequences of their attacks were going to be; would they still have done it? I think not.
Asked about the consequences, Mr Olmert said that a great part of Hezbollah's infrastructure had been destroyed. He added that the population which had supported Hezbollah was now on the run.
He rejected the suggestion that Israel was making itself hated in Lebanon by killing civilians.
"They hated Israel anyway, they gave shelter to Hezbollah. Some even hid the launch ramps for rockets in their houses to help Hezbollah", he said.
Asked about a ceasefire, the prime minister said Israel would agree to a ceasefire when international troops are in place in southern Lebanon.
This is also a condition of the draft UN Security Council resolution worked out by US and French officials over the weekend which stated that Israeli forces could remain on the ground until an international peacekeeping force arrives.
Hezbollah has already rejected the terms of the resolution.
Washington has given until Tuesday (8 August) for the resolution, which calls for a cessation of violence between Israel and Lebanon, to be passed.
"Let's vote on the resolution," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with ABC, "and then there is going to be an obligation by Lebanon and Israel to obey."
Since the Israelis began their offensive on 12 July in response to the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah, it is estimated that around 94 Israelis (including 58 soldiers) and anywhere between 750 and 900 Lebanese have been killed, according to news reports.
However, the US itself is sceptical about the whether the UN resolution can bring peace.
"We're trying to deal with a problem that has been festering and brewing in Lebanon now for years and years and years and so it's not going to be solved by one resolution in the Security Council," Ms Rice said according to the Jerusalem Post.