PM to IDF Commanders: Think of Palestinian Suffering at Roadblocks

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called on IDF commanders in the West Bank to understand that the roadblocks are causing suffering to the Palestinians, whose needs should be appreciated to avoid a worsening of relations between the two peoples.

Olmert made these comments during a closed-door meeting with brigade commanders of Central Command.

"Take all the Palestinians who were stripped at the roadblocks, only because there was concern that some of them were terrorists. Take all those who stand at the roadblocks where there is concern that a car bomb will pass through," Olmert said.

"This can become a boiling pot that can explode and cause terrible burns, and it can also be something else, which only depends on your understanding and abilities to conduct yourselves with wisdom and determination."

Olmert also told the officers that "sooner or later" Israel would have to operate in the Gaza Strip.

"But this will not be done without connection with the international scene. We need our friends throughout the world, and our reliance on them is of existential significance to the State of Israel," he said.

Olmert's standing in the eyes of the public has improved, according to a Haaretz-Dialog survey carried out on Wednesday.

Even though there has been no improvement in the public's satisfaction with the prime minister's performance, holding steady since February with a 23 percent approval rating, the number of those "dissatisfied" with Olmert has dropped from 65 to 60 percent. This reflects a slow but steady trend of improvement in his standing since the Second Lebanon War.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak's approval rating dropped slightly since the February survey. Barak received a 37 percent approval rating this week, compared with 47 percent who were dissatisfied.

But most people say they feel more secure and that Israel is better prepared for total war, compared with the situation two years ago on the eve of the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War.

The most significant change reflected in Wednesday's poll is that Likud lost nearly 20 percent support since February, lowering its potential Knesset mandates to 29 from 35 in the previous survey.

Barak, also leader of the Labor Party, expressed frustration that the kind of political cooperation he expected with Prime Minister Olmert has still not happened.

"Instead of dealing with [opposition leader Benjamin] Netanyahu, Olmert and I are drawn into political rivalries," Barak told close associates, referring to the tensions between Labor and Kadima.