Former prime minister Ehud Olmert insinuated on Monday that his successor, Binyamin Netanyahu, was an “idiot” and that his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, became revered only after lapsing into a coma.

“In times of peace, even an idiotic prime minister can come out looking good,” he said during a lecture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Monday. “Of course, a tembel [idiot] prime minister cannot make peace, and if he makes peace he’s not an idiot.”

After the audience laughed at his veiled tongue-in-cheek reference to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Olmert was quick to backtrack and added, “I mean that only generally, of course. Really!” The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond to Olmert’s comments.

Olmert made the reference while trying to explain the difference between a prime minister’s reputation in a time of war versus in a time of peace, in a lecture titled “Media Challenges of Prime Ministers in Times of War and Terror.”

He spoke as former prime minister Sharon’s medical condition turned critical and friends and family members feared his impending death.

Olmert, who took over the premiership when Sharon had a cerebral hemorrhage on January 4, 2006, acknowledged the outpouring of sympathy for the former prime minister.

“Today, there is an understandable sense of empathy and sympathy toward what he and his family are going through. This eight-year-long saga of his kids visiting him every day is a humanitarian story,” Olmert said.

His sympathy, however, was undercut by his claim that the public began to revere Sharon only after he fell into a coma.

“When did the [public] begin to love Sharon? When he fell into a coma.”

While much of Olmert’s speech was devoted to lessons learned through media coverage during the Second Lebanon War, he also took the time to discuss the current peace process.

He asserted that peace with the Palestinians is not only of the utmost importance, it is also extremely possible – “if we carry out a peace deal. But it’s not up to me, it’s up to the current government.”

“The entire Middle East landscape will change, as well as Israel’s standing in the region. If we’ll make peace with the Palestinians, it will cause a surge of change that will alter the entire region.

“We’ll become the center of the Middle East and people will invest academically and economically in us. The region will be much more successful and stable if the peace deal happens,” the former prime minister said.

Olmert also defended his leadership during the controversial Second Lebanon War. While acknowledging the criticism of Israel’s conduct during that war, Olmert said, “Ever since that war, we haven’t experienced this much quiet along the Lebanese border. We’ve had seven-and-a-half years without retaliation from Hezbollah.”

Referencing his own personal friendship with Secretary of State John Kerry, Olmert said that he supports Kerry’s tireless efforts to broker peace with the Palestinians and agreed with Kerry’s stance that it is possible to forge a deal, now, that ensures Israel’s security and maintains its status as both a Jewish and democratic state.

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