Former aide to Netanyahu decries terror

Nations such as the United States and Israel are justified in using force to defend democracy against totalitarian and terrorist aggressors, specifically Iraq, said former Israeli government adviser Yossi Olmert in a speech Thursday.

In an address sponsored by The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Duke Conservative Union and several other campus groups and academic departments, Olmert--an Arab-Israeli scholar, former adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and one-time director of the Israeli Press Office--said bluntly that he was not at all surprised by the Sept. 11 attacks. He cited a hatred for democracy as the root of world terrorism.

"Don't look for any particular reason why bin Laden doesn't like America. It has little to do with the American people. It has everything to do with America being the center of democracy, the anchor of the Western world," Olmert said.

In a pessimistic tone that Olmert attributed to his personal experiences with the struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians, he described efforts to negotiate with terrorist or totalitarian regimes as ineffectual.

"We must understand that terrorists believe that to be democratic means to be weak, that being unwilling to suffer casualties is naive. When this is the case, there cannot be peace," he said.

Olmert characterized Sept. 11 as a call to war for America, a war that America and all democratic nations must fight, and win. He also emphasized that terrorism was not limited to al Qaeda.

"It is becoming a realization in America that terrorism is terrorism. People who send people to kill innocents as an operation, as a system, they are terrorists. This includes Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat," he said.

Olmert also offered his insight on international affairs from the perspective of the Israeli government, but did so with the stipulation that his opinions were in no way the official policy of the Israeli leadership. He advocated a United States-led campaign to topple Hussein, and he applauded previous U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

"Saddam has been around for 34 years, and people ask what motivates him. The only part of his behavior that has been consistent is the desire to obtain weapons of mass destruction to attack his neighbors," he said. "I would like to see the defeat of Saddam and an attempt to build something there that resembles democracy."

Speaking as a former military adviser, Olmert hinted that Israel would stand up for itself should Iraq fire chemical or biological weapons as part of a war effort.

He said a nuclear response would be inevitable. "We will not live in fear," he said. "If he should dare to use these weapons against Israel, that would be his end. We know what we should do."

Members of the audience voiced mixed reactions to Olmert's ideas. Many felt that his unwavering support of war in Iraq, distrust of non-democracies and policy of nuclear reprisal were too extreme.

"I didn't think that he was representative of the opinion of most Israelis. I'm not sure many audience members shared his perspectives," junior Livia Fine said.

Other students thought that the evident bias of his experiences gave the speech a negative spin.

"He was pro-Israeli and pro-American, which is understandable given his background, but for people who came here to learn about the complexities of the situation, I think a more moderate point of view should have been presented," sophomore Miyyassah Al-Thani said.


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