On a day in which Israeli intelligence and political leaders bickered over the credit for the 2007 air strike on Syria’s nuclear reactor, the then-defense minister Ehud Barak took the sniping to new depths on Wednesday evening by asserting that the prime minister at the time, Ehud Olmert, “was never really the prime minister.”
Olmert was, rather, merely “playing” the role, said Barak, like Kevin Spacey as US president Francis Underwood in “House of Cards.”
Barak and Olmert have a long, bitter history — it was Barak who in 2008 forced Olmert’s resignation when the prime minister battled corruption allegations for which he was ultimately jailed. And the two men are also at odds over the Syria strike, with Olmert suggesting that Barak wanted to delay it so that he could claim credit for it at a later stage after Olmert was gone, and Barak insisting he simply wanted to be sure that the attack plan was perfected before the strike went ahead.
In an interview on the Reshet TV station, hours after Israel formally acknowledged responsibility for the strike, however, Barak derided Olmert with particular viciousness, asserting that “Olmert was never really prime minister” but had, rather, lucked into the role after Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke. “He got there by chance. I’m sure that Sharon would never have aimed to have him there. He played the role very well,” said Barak cynically.
Asked whether Olmert, nonetheless, had made a courageous and correct decision to approve the strike on Syria’s reactor, Barak continued: “Kevin Spacey is also a good actor. He played the president exceptionally well [in House of Cards]. That didn’t make him president.”
Olmert “made that good decision,” Barak allowed, “and he ultimately deserves credit for that.” But Olmert’s about-to-be-published autobiography, written in jail, underlined his utter unfitness for the job, claimed Barak, himself also a former prime minister. (Olmert is highly critical of Barak in the book.) “Read his book,” urged Barak. “The personality doesn’t change in jail… To think that the person who wrote that book… was the prime minister of Israel, and took fateful decisions affecting us all, is disturbing, to put it mildly.”
Barak’s predecessor as defense minister, MK Amir Peretz, by contrast, insisted that Olmert, when it came to the preparations for the Syria, functioned “exceptionally well.”