Former PM Olmert: Barak Protected Hamas During Cast Lead

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former prime minister Ehud Olmert trade barbs over Israel's offensive against Hamas two years ago.

Nearly two years after Israel's winter 2008-09 offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former prime minister Ehud Olmert exchanged barbs over the operation.

In an interview aired on the investigative television program "Uvda" on Wednesday, Barak responded to allegations apparently written in Olmert's upcoming book, including a claim by the former prime minister that Barak was responsible for torpedoing the continuation of Operation Cast Lead.

Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak July 31, 2007 Tess Scheflan
Tess Scheflan

"These things are lies and unfounded," Barak told senior reporter Ilana Dayan, adding that "obviously the Israel Defense Forces could have crushed the Hamas and taken back control of the Gaza Strip, but there is a difference between the leader's parody about [Winston] Churchill and decisions regarding human lives. We do not need to have a second attempt at the Second Lebanon War. I and the IDF chief made sure this would not happen."

"After the author David Grossman referred to Olmert's conduct as 'hollow leadership' and Judge Winograd referred to him as a 'serial failure,' it would be appropriate that the former prime minister be careful with the criticism directed at me," Barak said.

"[Olmert] is a man more worthy of pity than anything else," Barak added.

In response to Barak's statements in the aired interview, Olmert said that "Barak is the most failed prime minister in the history of Israel. During his tenure as prime minister, after the withdrawal from Lebanon, Barak accepted the kidnapping and killing of our soldiers on Har Dov and did not respond, which lead to a continuous deterioration, missile strikes, attacks and abductions of our soldiers by the Hezbollah, which made the Second Lebanon War inevitable."

"Barak did everything possible to protect the Hamas and stop its downfall in the Gaza Strip, with subversive actions against the government and its leader, he disassembled his party and lost the trust of the very last Knesset members while he continued to argue with the military elite under his supervision,' Olmert added.