Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Saturday that US billionaire Sheldon Adelson's financial contributions to the campaign of presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave the false impression that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu interfered in the US elections on the side of the Republican.
"We refrained from interfering in the democratic process in the United States," Channel 10 quoted Steinitz as saying at a cultural event in Beersheba. "The claim is baseless. Because Sheldon Adelson contributed money to Romney, and he is also a friend of the prime minister, they started to claim it was Israeli interference," he added.
Steinitz attacked Ehud Olmert for claiming Netanyahu took Romney's side in the election, accusing the former prime minister of being "irresponsible," and causing "damage" to the relationship between Israel and the US.
Following US President Barack Obama's reelection Tuesday night, Olmert told Jewish community leaders in New York that "The prime minister has a right to prefer one candidate over another, but it would be better, obviously if he kept it to himself. 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," a reference to Adelson.
"Netanyahu's behavior in recent months brings up the question if
Netanyahu has a friend in the White House, and I'm not sure," Olmert
said. "This could be very critical in certain areas."
Olmert's associates have said that he will decide on his political future following the US election, and Obama's reelection is encouraging to the former prime minister. He is expected to make an announcement soon after he returns to Israel after November 15.
Olmert's political prospects encountered new challenges Wednesday night when the State Attorney’s Office filed a Supreme Court appeal against the acquittals
and light sentence he received over corruption charges
the state wins at the Supreme Court level, Olmert could be convicted of harsher
crimes than he was at trial, and could even end up going to jail.
Since Obama's reelection, Netanyahu has gone out of his way to dispel the notion that he strained ties with Israel's most important ally, which has become a political liability at home.
“The alliance between Israel and the United States is strong. We have a strategic partnership. We have cooperation in all areas, but especially in the security sphere; there, cooperation is deep, broad and fundamental,” Netanyahu said on Thursday. “One of the foundations of our security is the brave partnership between us and the United States.”
On Wednesday, the prime minister hosted US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro in his Jerusalem office to pledge his support for Obama.Tovah Lazaroff, Lahav Harkov and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.