Israeli Army Training to Deal With Iranian Threat, Olmert Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is training its army to deal with threats from Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the comment two days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Europe not to support the Jewish state.

Israel is trying to convince the international community that Iran's nuclear pursuits are a threat to the region and the world, not just to Israel. Israeli officials repeatedly have said that it's up to the U.S. and Europe to lead efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic bomb.

But Olmert said last week that Israel would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

The U.S., Europe and Israel all believe that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charge.

Olmert told a group of activists from his Kadima party at a meeting on Sunday that Israeli troops would be trained to combat any threat that faces Israel, but he didn't offer any details.

"Our soldiers will be trained to deal with any of the dangers Israel is facing, including the Iranian threat, and we have already begun the work," Olmert was quoted as saying on Monday by the Israeli Internet site YNet.

His comments come just days after Ahmadinejad said that Israel had "lost the reason for its existence" and that it was "disappearing."

Speaking to thousands of Iranians at a rally in Tehran to mark Al-Quds Day, Ahmadinejad warned the Europeans that Israel had "no more benefit" for them. (Al-Quds Day is marked in Iran every year on the last Friday of Ramadan to promote an Islamic claim to Jerusalem.)

"We have advised the Europeans that the Americans are far away, but you are the neighbors of the nations in this region. We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt," he said.

Last year, Ahmadinejad said that Israel should be "wiped off the map," and he has called the Holocaust a "myth."

The international community has been dragging its feet for more than a year in dealing with Iran. The United Nations Security Council has not yet decided on sanctions against Iran after Tehran ignored an August 31 deadline to halt its uranium enrichment -- a process that can be used for nuclear fuel or for producing an atomic bomb.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres compared Ahmadinejad's recent comments to former German dictator Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for implementing "The Final Solution" a plan intended to rid the world of Jewish people. Six million Jews were killed as a result.

"The man stands up, he calls for the destruction of a country which is a member of the United Nations," Peres said on Sunday.

"He's the only one since Hitler that called openly for genocide, for the elimination of a nation, he called to end the state of Israel, so I think we have to call him by the proper name," said Peres.

Many in the West have expected Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear installations as it did the French-built Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. But experts say the situation is much different now.

Iran learned from the Iraqi experience and has spread its nuclear installations around the country, hiding many of them in bunkers underground.

Some experts say that both the U.S. and Israel know that military action against Iran is inevitable. But they say the U.S. is much better equipped to carry out such an operation.

Others say military action wouldn't wipe out Iran's nuclear program but could set it back a number of years.

According to the results of a new poll released by the American Jewish Committee on Sunday, a majority of American Jews support the idea of Israel -- but not the U.S. -- taking military action against Iran.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they backed Israel taking military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, while 35 percent opposed it. But only 38 percent favored the U.S. using force against Iran while 54 percent said they opposed it.

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