Ehud Olmert said Thursday that he plans to be “very involved” in Israel’s upcoming elections, once again hinting at a return to public life.
Speaking to a meeting of the Jewish Federation in San Francisco, the former prime minister blamed Benjamin Netanyahu for injecting Israeli politics into the US elections.
“Israel should not be at the center of the argument in America, and without the prime minister’s action, this would not have been the case,” Olmert said in response to a question on Israel-US relations.
Netanyahu warned on Thursday that “there are those among us who are trying to instigate strife between Israel and the US,” and said they would “not get away with it.”
The prime minister was alluding quite clearly to a comment made the previous day by Olmert, who said the prime minister’s apparent preference for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in the US presidential campaign was damaging to the relationship between the two allies.
“What took place this time was a breaking of all the rules, when our prime minister intervened in the US elections in the name of an American billionaire with a clear interest in the vote,” Olmert told a meeting of New York Jewish leaders on Wednesday. “The very same billionaire used Israel’s prime minister to advance a nominee of his own for president.”
Olmert’s words were a clear reference to Jewish-American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who, according to reports, donated some $100 million to Romney’s failed campaign. Adelson also owns the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is largely perceived as a stalwart backer of Netanyahu.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of the prime minister’s Likud party, called Olmert’s accusation “absurd,” and advised him “not to interfere in the elections in Israel and certainly not with statements that may cause damage to the State of Israel.”
Olmert told an audience at Columbia Law School in New York on Wednesday that the Likud party is an “extreme right-wing” faction, noting the merger of its candidate list with that of Avigdor Liberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party, ahead of Knesset elections scheduled for January 22.
Gabe Fisher and JTA contributed to this report.