Olmert speech draws crowds, protesters

jhewlett@herald-leader.comOctober 15, 2009 

A speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday night on the University of Kentucky campus filled the Singletary Center for the Arts and also saw dozens of protesters.

Amid tight security, the leader endured heckling during parts of his speech, which included his thoughts on nuclear threats from Iran in the Middle East, the road to peace and also the impact of the Nobel Peace Prize on Barack Obama's presidency.

"Everything is on the table," he said about the first issue. Options, he said, range from "complete acquiescence" to military attack.

Other countries on that side of the hemisphere that have developed or are developing nuclear weapons don't pose as big a threat as Iran, he said.

"None of them can be compared to the Iranians," he said.

He said if the world would understand the gravity of the situation with Iran that practical solutions would be found.

"The state of Israel does not want to fight with Iran," he said.

Asked what he thought about Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Olmert said he didn't know of any leader in modern times who had gotten so much credit in advance.

Obama will now be judged not only on what he has promised, but what he was given in advance, he said.

"I congratulate him," he said.

Security was heavy at the Singletary Center with guards checking people's possessions as they went inside. Several guards were stationed onstage around Olmert.

Outside, members of the Islamic Society of Central Kentucky and others protested Olmert's appearance, holding signs and standing in silence.

"You cannot practice peace unless you practice justice," said Khaled Ghoneim, president of the Islamic Society of Central Kentucky.

But some of the protesters weren't so silent once they went inside for the speech, during which they also held signs.

"This man is responsible for the death of a lot of innocent people," one man shouted.

"Shame on you," yelled another.

The protesters blame Olmert for widespread violence in Gaza last winter that left many dead.

Olmert was unfazed.

"The nature of democracy is that there are some people who will disagree with you," he said. "I hope they will be patient enough to listen."

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service