Olmert: Netanyahu Leading Israel to Political Isolation

Former prime minister criticizes Netanyahu and Lieberman, saying that the refusal to extend the settlement freeze could lead to political isolation and damage the Israeli economy.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.

Speaking at an Industry, Trade and Labor ministry conference, Olmert said that the government's refusal to accept the United States request that Israel extend a freeze on West Bank settlement construction for two months could lead to Israel's political isolation in the world and damage Israel's economy.

Former PM Ehud Olmert at Geneva Initiative conference, September 19, 2010
Mati Milstein

"There are people who think it is possible to separate the political situation from the economic situation and they use the phrase 'economic peace'," Olmert said, alluding to Netanyahu. "This is a lovely phrase but in reality it doesn’t exist."

Olmert told the audience that Israel could not expect to receive continued support from the U.S. and Europe if it continues to "insult the whole world."

Olmert said that it was necessary to have an internal discussion within Israeli society on the issue of the settlements. He added that the lack of a genuine political process with the Palestinians since the formation of Netanyahu's government had led the world to focus on the settlements.

"When we raise doubts about supporting a two-state solution, everyone will talk about the settlements," Olmert said.

Olmert condemned Netanyahu's decision to not respond positively to Barack Obama's request that Israel declare a two-month extension of the West Bank settlement freeze, saying that Netanyahu's refusal hurt Israel's strategic interests.

"[Obama] is the president of the country with which have signed an agreement to receive advanced fighter aircraft and which provides us a grant of billions of dollars annually," Olmert said. "We are an independent and strong country that is determined to protect its interests - but is it logical, responsible and forward looking to not condone what [the U.S.] is saying?"