PM Distances Himself From Iran Comments by Hawkish Aide Arad

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet given an interview to an Israeli media outlet since assuming office more than 100 days ago. His national security adviser, Uzi Arad, on the other hand, gave an interview to Ari Shavit in last weekend's Haaretz Magazine. Arad criticized the previous governments' performance on the Iranian nuclear threat, and scoffed at the idea of a Palestinian state, an idea recently adopted by Netanyahu. His words created the impression he was representing Netanyahu's positions.

Arad didn't mention names except for opposition leader Tzipi Livni, but it's safe to assume he meant former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon, whom he believes mortgaged the national agenda via the Gaza disengagement and Annapolis summit instead of taking care of Iran.

He was also probably referring to Mossad chief Meir Dagan, in charge of the diplomatic forum for undercutting the Iranian nuclear program. Arad implied there had been a colossal failure. He said former foreign minister Livni did less than the EU's Javier Solana against the Iranian threat. Arad also probably had Defense Minister Ehud Barak in mind.

It's difficult to remember another key official who has created so many enemies with a few comments so early in his tenure. Netanyahu realized this and sought to distance himself from his adviser.

His office issued a statement saying that the prime minister "had no intention to comment on how Israeli governments, past or present, approached the Iranian issue. However, the prime minister is certain that the Iranian matter was among the top concerns of all Israeli governments, and thanks them for their important contribution, including that of Meir Dagan."

The office added that the prime minister was committed to what he pledged in his speech at Bar-Ilan University last month.

Arad's slip-up is typical of advisers who share politicians' wilderness years and then go on proclaiming the old opposition slogans even when in power. Arad failed to notice that Netanyahu was now prime minister, seeking a national consensus, and had no interest to berate any of his predecessors.

He certainly did not want to scold Livni, his political partner Barak, and the Mossad chief, whose tenure Netanyahu had just extended. Arad is an intellectual and has much experience in strategy, but his weakness is teamwork - and this weakness is pushing him to the sidelines.