Ehud Olmert: Netanyahu tried to interfere in U.S. elections
Former prime minister criticizes his successor's public wrangle with Obama over Iran, claims Netanyahu tried to drive wedge between Congress and U.S. president.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's aggressive quarrel with the Obama administration over the agreement with Iran signed in Geneva endangers Israel, and panned Netanyahu for "losing his head."
Olmert accused the prime minister of "declaring war on the United States" and of attempting to incite the Congress against U.S. President Barack Obama.
Olmert spoke Sunday at a closed panel discussion on "the strategic implications of the interim agreement between the P5 + 1 and Iran," held at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Olmert said both his government and that of his predecessor Ariel Sharon wished to avoid public confrontation with the American administration over Iran. "At no stage did we want to do battle with Israel's number one ally and to incite the Congress against the president," he said.
Olmert called Netanyahu's acts and statements unprecedented. "The danger and the potential damage from it are incomparably larger" than the value of the public debate with the United States, he said.
When Netanyahu took office in 2009, he changed Israeli policy in favor of "declarations" and "threats," Olmert said.
Olmert also said Netanyahu's Iran policy put an undue financial strain on Israel, criticizing the NIS 10 Billion spent on preparations for a possible attack on Iran.
"This is money that was wasted," Olmert said. "If the State of Israel ever decidedact on its threats this money will not change anything, but it has great significance as to the state's budget."
Olmert rejected the claim that Netanyahu's threats led to the severe sanctions that brought about the compromise with Iran, and said that these started even before Netanyahu took office.
He warned Netanyahu, without directly naming him, against a conflict with Obama, "the man whose support for the State of Israel, his good will, is possibly the most important basis for the country's strategic interest," and added that "we need to guard against anything that could possibly make it seem that we desire to fight with our greatest ally."
Later he said: "It is possible to stand on every platform and tell the president of the United States 'you do what we think since if not, we will do all sorts of things.' Is there one president who can accept these warnings that came from Jerusalem? Is this serious?"
Olmert also claimed that Netanyahu openly intervened against Obama in the U.S. presidential elections last year, a move he termed a "historic mistake." He also attacked Netanyahu's wooing of Russia, and asked rhetorically: "Will Putin give us $3 billion in military aid a year?"
Sanctions regime 'disintigrating'
Netanyahu responded to Olmert on Sunday night saying he will not "remain silent" in the face of threats against Israel only to "get a pat on the back by the international community."
"In contrast to the past, we have a clear voice among the nations, and we will raise it in order to warn of the danger in time," Netanyahu said during his visit to Rome, Italy.
Netanyahu warned that the international sanctions regime on Iran is starting to fall apart "rapidly" in the wake of the deal with world powers in Geneva.
"If nothing is done swiftly, the sanctions regime might collapse, and years of efforts will be wasted without anything in return," he said.
Geneva deal is a 'moral defeat'
Responding to Olmert's criticism of Netanyahu, Former minister MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), who also took part in the panel, said Olmert's speech "is more fitting for a party meeting than for a research institute. It was a political attack. We forgot that [Iranian President Hassan] Rohani exists, and Netanyahu is the enemy." Hanegbi and Olmert were at odds as to whether Israel is aware of all the details of the Geneva deal. Olmert said that there are secret understandings between the sides that Israel isn't aware of, while Hanegbi said that Israel is familiar with the full picture.
Hanegbi accused the West of surrendering and termed the Geneva deal a "moral defeat," as it allows Iran to continue enriching uranium. "Iran did not give in on any single issue that has any value or long term significance," Hanegbi added.
"According to the agreement it would take only several weeks in order to re-accumulate the necessary amount of uranium needed for non-military needs. These agreements do not alter Iran's ability to rush forward and produce a nuclear bomb when it decides to do so. Iran wasn't required to demolish even one of the sites it established secretly, and won the West's recognition of its right to enrich uranium. Indeed, Iran halted its drive to achieve nuclear weapons for six months, but this has no significance, since it already covered most of the distance and is only a small step away from nuclear capability."
Hanegbi said that "according to estimates in Israel, easing sanctions will benefit Iran's economy twice as much than estimated by the U.S. administration. The only move that worked, the sanctions, have been significantly weakened by the Geneva deal.
"At present, we must carry out a double move: To see to it that existing sanctions are observed, and that the U.S. Congress will adopt a decision supporting further sanctions to be leveled if Iran violates the agreement or if it collapses. Israel must make its voice clearly heard. Ours is not a lone voice in the wilderness. Our position has wide support in Congress, among European powers and with our neighboring countries."
The head of the hosting institute, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said that "Several years ago, Iran became a state on the verge of nuclear ability. It developed abilities for a decade without anyone stopping it. It is only a decision and short time period away from [nuclear ability]. This is a sad, problematic fact, but the Geneva agreement shouldn't carry the blame for that."
The former Military Intelligence chief said that "Israel must have prepared itself for the possibility of a strike on Iran," differing from Olmert's opinion that huge funds were wasted on the project. Yadlin said that the investment could serve other security needs.