Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Tuesday that his government would continue to work toward a comprehensive peace with the Arabs.
“We will not let anyone question our right to exist,” he told lawmakers gathered at the Knesset in Jerusalem for the swearing-in of the new coalition. “Israel can`t afford to treat statements against it light-heartedly.”
As he prepared to take on his new position, Netanyahu also warned the Palestinian Authority that it must do its part to fight terror if it is serious about peace.
Just prior to Netanyahu’s address, Olmert urged lawmakers during his final speech as premier to follow in his government’s path and make the peace process a central focus of the coming term.
“Our avid peace efforts were acknowledged by the international community,” he said. In particular, the outgoing prime minister called on Netanyahu to continue on the Syria track, a process which Olmert jumpstarted during his term.
“As I step down from the premiership, I am not the least bit resentful,” Olmert said, adding that he was proud of his own government’s achievements.
Olmert’s tenure as prime minister was heavily criticized throughout, with two wars and a dozen investigations into his alleged corruption.
During his address, the outgoing prime minister defended his government’s decision to carry out the 2006 war in Lebanon and the recent operation in the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces is “most moral army in the world,” Olmert declared, adding that this was evident by Israel’s actions during its offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
He also defended the government’s decision to carry out the 2006 Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah militants, despite widespread criticism of the state’s handling of that war.
“The outcomes of Second Lebanon War, in long run, are positive,” Olmert said, adding that the war “changed strategic balance along the border in our favor.”