Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Thursday slammed the government’s handling of plans to expand a West Bank settlement, saying it had “deceived” the Unites States by not informing the Obama administration of the move.
The US State Department issued a biting condemnation on Wednesday of plans to expand the northern West Bank settlement of Shiloh to house the residents of Amona, an illegal outpost scheduled for demolition in the coming months.
In an extensive interview with Army Radio Thursday morning, Barak said that Israel must make its own decisions on security issues but “we must act wisely and appropriately with our allies,” he added, saying Israel should have told the US of the plans first.
“Why are we behaving like children upset at kindergarten instead of a responsible government?” Barak asked.
“A senior US official told me that he gets nauseous every time he flies to Israel because he doesn’t know what surprise is waiting for him when the doors of the plane open. ‘How are we going to be embarrassed this time?'” he added.
The Foreign Ministry rejected harsh criticism from the United States over the West Bank building, noting that the recently authorized construction is not a new settlement.
“The 98 housing units approved in Shiloh do not constitute a ‘new settlement,’” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This housing will be built on state land in the existing settlement of Shiloh and will not change its municipal boundary or geographic footprint.”
The plan calls for two phases of construction, with a further 200 units to be approved after the first round of 98 homes is completed.
Barak said that the Obama administration was wrong to define the new housing as a new settlement but that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was effectively responsible for the US criticism.
“The real threat on Jerusalem and settlement blocs is Netanyahu’s government which continues to build in settlement outposts,” Barak charged, saying that past construction has hardened the US’s position.
“Meet with the Americans, and explain the situation and the challenges to them. They may not have agreed but at least we could have tried and acted appropriately,” he said. “We are poking the Americans in the eye time after time.”
“American’s don’t deceive other people and they expect that others won’t deceive them, and they feel deceived in this case, on a number of levels,” he added.
Barak’s statements follows a series of public speeches and op-eds criticizing the government over its foreign and defense policy and comes amid swirling rumors that the former prime minister is mulling a return to politics.
Barak was prime minister from 1999 until 2001. He was the leader of the Labor Party until 2011, when he splintered from it to form the Independence Party. In 2012 he chose to retire from politics rather than run, and almost certainly lose, in the 2013 general election.
Billboards were recently put up overnight in the Tel Aviv area calling for Barak to run for office. “Barak, you have to run,” the posters said. “Netanyahu is destroying the country.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.