Olmert: Palestinians in Hebron Also Have Rights and a Heritage

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday said the House of Contention in Hebron would be evacuated and he will not allow anyone to "raise a hand against Israeli democracy... The Palestinians are also people with rights and a heritage."

Olmert spoke at the official memorial ceremony for Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, held at his grave at Sde Boker in the Negev. He praised Ben-Gurion for establishing the authority of the state, and also praised former prime minister Menahem Begin for the stand he took: Jews do not harm other Jews.

Further, Olmert condemned the "disgrace and contempt, and the wild and inciteful voices against the authority of the state and the rule of law." He added: "I pray and hope that the State of Israel will know to make difficult and heart-rending decisions without a civil war."

"There are things which cannot be accepted, and the government which I head will not do so. The desire to leave the mark of the Jewish presence in one of the holiest and most important of our cities is completely understandable. But this desire cannot be stronger than a court decision. When the High Court of Justice ruled that a house in Hebron must be evacuated, it will be evacuated," said Olmert.

He added that he will make every effort to prevent confrontation, to discuss the matter respectfully with those who disagree with him, patiently and with restraint. However, Olmert said, "In the end the High Court's decision will be enforced.

Speaking of the Palestinians, Olmert said they also had rights, just as the settlers do, and are entitled to protection from violent lawbreakers. Olmert called on the settlers to show restraint and respect for the Palestinians and their property.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter (Kadima) also spoke yesterday about the possible evacuation of the house in Hebron.

He said it was clear to all involved, including the settlers, that the matter should be resolved through agreement, but if force was necessary, the government would do what is needed.

"Myself, the defense minister, the IDF and the police, are holding discussions with people who care that the matter is resolved in an honorable manner and according to the High Court of Justice ruling," said Dichter. He said the house was "not a target to be captured at any price, and God forbid it should put people's lives in danger."

He said it was regrettable that without hesitation or embarrassment, adults were sending youths and sometimes even children to confront police and soldiers. We should all be outraged, he said, and after the events have ended the authorities would continue to seek out everyone involved in the riots and they could not hide behind children or masks. Dichter added that everyone in Hebron, visitors or those who lived their, were bound by Israeli law, and there is no difference between Hebron and anywhere else.