Netanyahu shouldn’t try to tangle with Obama, Olmert says

Netanyahu shouldn’t try to tangle with Obama, Olmert says

In latest Netanyahu critique, former PM warns of confronting the American leader, says it's the US that provides jets

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Ehud Olmert (left) and Barak Obama (right) in Jerusalem, 2008 (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Ehud Olmert (left) and Barak Obama (right) in Jerusalem, 2008 (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A confrontation with the country that arms and supports Israel, and its leader, the most powerful man in the world, is not what the Jewish state needs, former prime minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday in his latest public critique of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies.

The Israeli government, Olmert also charged, is refusing to make peace.

“Who builds airplanes?” Olmert asked rhetorically, “members of the Likud party who need to be shown flexed muscles, or the US president?”

Olmert, speaking at Haifa University, said it wasn’t in Israel’s interests to tangle with the leader of the free world. His comments came on the heels of a number of reports pointing to frayed ties between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu as both head into their second terms.

On Tuesday Obama was quoted as saying in private conversation that under Netanyahu, “Israel doesn’t know what its best interests are,” causing Netanyahu, widely expected to win reelection handily next week, to respond that Israelis will decide what is best for them.

Olmert, a Kadima member who is sitting out the current round of voting as he fights corruption charges, has made a number of statements in the past weeks striking out at Netanyahu’s policies and decisions in the run-up to elections. Last weekend, Olmert accused Netanyahu of wasting NIS 11 billion (nearly $3 billion) on “harebrained adventures” to thwart Iran. He also said Israel had purchased a sixth submarine against defense experts’ recommendations.

“I’ve been in touch with heads of state,” the former prime minister told the crowd Thursday. “I’ve never heard a president speak about his fear that Israel’s survival was at risk because of its own policy — all because of the refusals in the diplomatic field.”

At the moment, Olmert stated, the government “is refusing peace. It’s refusing a process, refusing to talk to the moderate Palestinians.” There is no other way to put it, he said, other than saying the government “doesn’t want a diplomatic agreement” to end the conflict.

Olmert also accused Netanyahu of lying about defense budget overrunsThe defense budget was 120 percent of what was approved, Olmert said, “and whoever dares say that most of [the extra funds were] spent on building infrastructure for the future isn’t telling the truth.”

At least one of Olmert’s denunciations earned a slapdown. Based on the number of party members from Israel Aircraft Industries, there are in fact quite a few Likud members who build planes, MK Carmel Shama-HaCohen noted sarcastically on his Facebook feed.

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