Last update - 18:36 31/03/2009     
      Netanyahu: Israel seeks lasting peace with Arabs  
      By Haaretz Service  
      Tags: likud, ehud olmert   

      Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Tuesday that under 
his leadership, Israel would continue to work toward a comprehensive peace with 
the Arab and Muslim world. 

      "We will not let anyone question our right to exist," he told lawmakers 
gathered at the Knesset in Jerusalem for the swearing-in of the new coalition. 
"Israel can`t afford to treat statements against it light-heartedly." 

      In his address, Netanyahu called radical Islam and the Iranian regime 
major threats to regional security, but praised Islam itself as a rich 

      As he prepared to take on his new role, Netanyahu also warned the 
Palestinian Authority that it must do its part to fight terror if it is serious 
about peace. 

      He also said that he would do whatever it takes to free abducted Israel 
Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been in Palestinian captivity 
since he was abducted in a 2006 cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip. 

      Netanyahu thanked outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his "devoted 
service" to the state, and promised to engage in peace talks with "sincerity 
and a clear mind." 

      Following his address, Netanyahu began to name the 30 new ministers and 
deputy ministers appointed to serve in the new government coalition. 

      Olmert delivered his final speech as premier just before Netanyahu's 
address, urging the new coalition to follow in his government's path and make 
the peace process a central focus of the coming term. 

      "Our avid peace efforts were acknowledged by the international 
community," he said. In particular, the outgoing prime minister called on 
Netanyahu to continue on the Syria track, a process which Olmert jumpstarted 
during his term. 

      "As I step down from the premiership, I am not the least bit resentful," 
Olmert said, adding that he was proud of his own government's achievements. 

      Olmert's tenure as prime minister was heavily criticized throughout, with 
two wars and a dozen investigations into his alleged corruption. 

      During his address, the outgoing prime minister defended his government's 
decision to carry out the 2006 war in Lebanon and the recent operation in the 
Gaza Strip. 

      The Israel Defense Forces is "most moral army in the world," Olmert 
declared, adding that this was evident by Israel's actions during its offensive 
on the Gaza Strip earlier this year. 

      He also defended the government's decision to carry out the 2006 Second 
Lebanon War against Hezbollah militants, despite widespread criticism of the 
state's handling of that war. 

      "The outcomes of Second Lebanon War, in long run, are positive," Olmert 
said, adding that the war "changed strategic balance along the border in our 

      Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who lost out on the opportunity to form 
the new government despite her Kadima party's slim win in the February 
elections, took the podium to deliver the third address at the government 
swearing in. 

      She began her speech by wishing the new government success, but quickly 
added that could not wish success to a coalition deal that would "not benefit 
the state at all."  



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