By BARRY SCHWEID
Tuesday, April 25, 2006 6:57 PM
WASHINGTON -- Interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, responding to a series of threatening statements, on Tuesday called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a dictator and said Israel was able to defend itself.
"We need to make sure no one has the capability or the power to commit destruction against us," Olmert said.
"The Jewish people and the very existence of Israel" are Iran's targets, Olmert said, "and we don't see enough of a response from the world."
In a satellite relay to a convention of the Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel group, Olmert, who is in the midst of putting together the final pieces in a new Israeli government, responded firmly to the Iranian leader's frequent rhetorical jabs at Israel.
Olmert said he takes the threats by Ahmadinejad to erase Israel from the map "very seriously."
"We do not take it lightly," Olmert said, speaking from Jerusalem. "We are powerful and able to defend ourselves."
Olmert has urged the international community to work against Iran's nuclear program, saying Tehran's ambitions threaten not only Israel but all of Western civilization.
Israel has long identified Iran as its biggest threat, and these concerns have grown amid repeated calls by Ahmadinejad for Israel's destruction.
On top of the threats the Iranian leader has denounced Israel as a "fake regime."
Olmert's response came as Israel and Jews around the world commemorated the Holocaust, the attempt by the Nazis and their supporters in World War II to destroy European Jewry. An estimated 6 million Jews died in concentration camps and killing fields.
In his speech to the conference Olmert reiterated his determination to establish a "new reality" in the region, either through negotiations or unilaterally.
He said Israel would separate itself from the Palestinians on parts of the West Bank, affording the Palestinians a state and a better life.
"We want to end this cycle of violence," he said, referring to the decades-old conflict between Arabs and Israel.
Olmert also praised President Bush, saying Israel was "in good hands" when it relied on him.