Olmert accuses PM of wasting billions on ‘harebrained adventures’

Former prime minister says Netanyahu spent NIS 11 billion on Iran-related defense projects that ‘won’t come to fruition’

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert accused Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday of spending billions of shekels on unnecessary defense projects related to Iran. In an interview with Channel 2 News, Olmert said that the current prime minister “wasted” NIS 11 billion on “harebrained adventures that haven’t, and won’t, come to fruition.”

“We are dealing with expenditures that go above and beyond multi-year budgets,” said Olmert, adding that he believes “the projects won’t be carried out because 2012 was the decisive year.”

“They scared the world for a year and in the end didn’t do anything,” charged Olmert, referring to Netanyahu’s ongoing campaign to lead the world into action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program both by toughening sanctions and by using the threat of military strikes to derail the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment drive.

Olmert, who resigned the premiership in 2008 after being embroiled in multiple allegations of corruption — most of which he was later cleared of — also addressed comments made last week by former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin. (Olmert was convicted of breach of trust, is on trial in a real estate scandal and faces the state’s appeal against hid acquittals in two major cases.) Diskin claimed Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak held sensitive meetings dealing with the Iranian threat, while smoking cigars and drinking alcohol. Olmert confirmed that he too had heard similar accounts and expressed support for Diskin for airing the issue publicly.

“Did I hear about it? Yes. Should Diskin have talked about it? I’m glad he didn’t reveal operative details, but when it comes to issues like this, it was his duty to speak up,” said Olmert. “If a man like Diskin, who has behaved responsibly during all his years of public service, reaches the conclusion that the Israeli public must know what’s going on when their fates are being decided on, it is vital he does so.”

Olmert, who claims he was close to reaching an historic agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before stepping down from office, warned of the dangers of failing to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. “As long as there are no negotiations between the Palestinians and us, Israel will be in poor condition,” said Olmert. “When things break out, when we’ve become isolated, when the US administration draws its conclusions from the government’s provocative policies, it will be too late to try to fix the terrible damage wrought on the state,” he said.

The former premier, who in 2006 left the Likud party to form Kadima together with former prime minister Ariel Sharon, reiterated his political support for current Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, saying the party — which went from being the largest Knesset faction in the last elections, to barely crossing the electoral threshold in polls ahead of the next vote, on January 22 — “was in shambles before Mofaz was elected its chairman.” Olmert essentially laid the blame for Kadima’s collapse on the party’s former leader, Tzipi Livni, his former foreign minister, who is running in elections for the Knesset at the helm of a new party called Hatnua.

This is not the first time Olmert has come out against Netanyahu during the elections season. Last month, Olmert warned that the government’s policy of inaction on the Palestinian front could lead to a third intifada breaking out. He suggested that the government’s decision to approve the construction of 3,000 homes in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim was aimed at preventing negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Likud-Beytenu campaign headquarters issued a response to Olmert’s statements, saying, “Ehud Olmert, who was convicted of felonies, brought the disengagement upon us, raised Hamas to power, failed at managing the Second Lebanon War, and offered irresponsible concessions to the Palestinians, is the last person who can sermonize about Prime Minister Netanyahu, who strengthened the country in the face of global upsets and stewarded Operation Pillar of Defense [against Hamas in Gaza in November] in a reasonable and responsible manner.”

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