Netanyahu and Peres
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Photo by Daniel Bar On
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Moshe Milner / GPO
From left: Benny Gantz, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu at an IAF ceremony, 2011. Photo by Moshe Milner / GPO

President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clashed publicly yesterday over a possible strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, with Netanyahu aides saying that Peres "forgot the role of a president in the State of Israel."

Earlier yesterday, the president said in an interview with Channel 2 television that Israel should not act alone against Iran's nuclear program, and that he trusted U.S. President Barack Obama to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"It's clear to us that we can't do it alone," Peres said. "We can only delay [Iran's progress]. Thus it's clear to us that we need to go together with America. There are questions of cooperation and of timetables, but as severe as the danger is, at least this time we're not alone." Israel should rely on itself, but that doesn't mean we should give up our friends," Peres added.

The president's position contradicts the line taken by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who say Israel must be prepared to act alone if necessary.

In response, Netanyahu's aides said that Peres "forgot the role of a president in the State of Israel." They then offered a litany of what they termed the president's past security blunders.

"Peres was wrong when he thought there would be a new Middle East after the Oslo Accords," said one. "In reality, we got more than 1,000 Israelis killed in terror attacks originating from the territories he gave the Palestinians."

Peres' second mistake, according to this aide, was "that he thought there would be peace in Gaza after the disengagement [in 2005], but in reality, we got missiles."

"But Peres' biggest mistake was in 1981, when he opposed the bombing of the Iraqi reactor," the aide continued. "Luckily, Prime Minister Menachem Begin ignored him."

Peres also leveled veiled criticism at Netanyahu in an interview with Channel 10 television. Netanyahu has said in the past that Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, would have attacked Iran over U.S. objections. Peres, who was Ben-Gurion's aide, said that Ben-Gurion "prevented war and withdrew from Sinai. He wanted to open the Straits of Tiran by force in 1955, but the cabinet decided against it."