Netanyahu, Barak deny money was ‘wasted’ on Iran

Leadership duo respond to accusations by former PM Olmert, who claimed government spent NIS 11 billion on ‘harebrained’ projects to thwart Tehran’s nuclear drive

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on November 14, 2012. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on November 14, 2012. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, on Saturday, denied accusations hurled at them Friday by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who claimed Israel had wasted NIS 11 billon on what he called “harebrained adventures” to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In an interview given to Channel 2 news, Olmert charged Netanyahu with spending billions of shekels on unnecessary defense projects related to Iran “that haven’t, and won’t, come to fruition.”

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

Netanyahu’s office refused to go into the details of the alleged spending, citing national security reasons, but issued a statement dismissing Olmert’s accusations.

“This is further hollow criticism by Olmert, who as prime minister failed to adequately prepare the military for the Second Lebanon War. Not only were no funds wasted on Israel’s citizens’ security, but during the past four years Israel has built up abilities that have already proven themselves, and its security establishment was bolstered by capabilities it may yet need facing the multitude of regional challenges,” read the statement.

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who is likely to replace Barak as defense minister if Likud-Beytenu forms the next government, said he regretted “Olmert’s irresponsible statements on the defense budget, which were said without him knowing the full picture over the past four years.”

“If Olmert doesn’t understand that preventing Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities was, and remains, Israel’s number one security goal, then he is making a bitter mistake,” the Likud-Beytenu’s response team point man, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, told Channel 2 news on Saturday.

Barak’s office released a similar statement, reading: “Investment in fortifying military capabilities is not a waste; the capabilities that were built up serve the IDF in meeting current and future challenges. Olmert’s criticism is inaccurate, irresponsible and may not necessarily be derived from pure motives.”

“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.”

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