Olmert Tells Gates at End of Lightning Visit: Israel Has No Plans to Attack Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended his short visit to Israel yesterday in a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

The meeting focused on Syria and the Iranian nuclear program.

Olmert told Gates that Israel had no intention of attacking Syria, and warned against a "miscalculation" that might lead Syria and Israel into a war no one wanted.

Gates said he shared his hosts' concern.

With regard to the Iranian issue, Olmert reiterated his position that economic and diplomatic moves could be effective in thwarting Iranian's nuclear plans, to which Gates agreed.

"The free world is currently being tested by the countries threatened by Iran. These are predominantly Iran's Arab and Muslim neighbors. Vacillation is perceived as weakness, which may create a desire to appease Iran. Only the determination of the international community will keep the 'moderate camp' on the same side," Livni told Gates, adding, "We live in a neighborhood where one's image is very meaningful. If others get the impression that the world is losing to the 'neighborhood bully,' they will want to join him."

Olmert told Gates that a hasty American withdrawal from Iraq would harm the U.S.'s image in the region and make it seem weak, which might negatively impact efforts to halt the Iranian threat.

From Israel, Gates continued to Iraq to visit the U.S. troops.

Olmert asked Gates not to reduce the number of American troops in the Multi-National Force in Sinai. The Pentagon had asked to reduce U.S. involvement in the force, and wanted to know what Israel and Egypt thought. Egypt also requested that the numbers not be reduced. Gates said Washington had not yet made a decision on the matter.

Livni mentioned the matter of weapons smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. "Apart from the fact that it is causing a 'Lebanonization' of the Gaza Strip," she said, "It casts a shadow on future compromises on other issues."

Gates told Olmert that from the moment he took up his post, he had wanted to visit Israel in order to strengthen bilateral security relations.

Before departing, Gates also visited Yad Vashem and the Hall of Remembrance, where he laid a wreath and rekindled the eternal flame.