Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert [file] 370.
(photo credit: Reuters / Pool)
Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu launched a counter attack on Monday evening against criticism of Israel's public attack on the interim accord on Iran's nuclear program, and the recent tension in Jerusalem-Washington relations.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert accused Netanyahu of "waging war" against the US administration, while Finance Minister Yair Lapid provided a more tempered view, saying Israel's discussions with the US about Iran should be done in backrooms, not publicly.
Netanyahu's aides defended the premier's tough and defiant public criticism of the interim deal signed between the Islamic Republic and world powers freezing Tehran's nuclear program for six months in return for minor sanctions relief.
"There's a collapse of the sanctions against Iran, what are we to do? Send faxes to the White House?"
"Seventy-five years ago, before we had a state, the Jews tried to hold backroom talks with [then-US president Franklin D.] Roosevelt, and it did not really help the Jews of Europe," they added, according to Channel 2.
Speaking at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Olmert slammed Netanyahu for his outspoken opposition to the US’s support of the Geneva deal.
“You have to handle this decision with wisdom, quietly – without bombastic declarations – and quiet dialogue as we used to do in the past,” Olmert said.
The former premier, who has been a vocal critic of Netanyahu, said efforts to lobby members of Congress and the public questioning of the US’s commitment to Israel are errors by Netanyahu’s government.
“We waged war on the American administration. You cannot blur it. We waged war,” he said. “They were always on our side,” he added, emphatically banging the podium. “What do you want from them?”
While Netanyahu himself did not respond to his predecessor's comments directly, his aides offered a harsh condemnation of Olmert's views.
"Not everyone has experience in continuous failure like Ehud Olmert does," they were quoted as saying. "Like his failure in running the country, in understanding the international state of things and in diplomacy."
Olmert "can talk to the Americans about the borders of Qalqilya in backrooms, but at the end of the day, in these kind of topics, you have to raise your voice," they added.
Lapid, meanwhile, offered a more veiled, mild criticism in an interview with CNBC aired on Monday.
"I think it's okay to have disputes within the family as long as we keep it within the family," the finance minister said.
"The most strategic asset we have is a kind of intimacy with the United States government throughout the years, and this is an asset we don't want to lose," he said.
"So we want to be out loud and maybe even blunt about our concerns but we understand that the United States means well and is doing its best under very very complicated circumstances."
Despite that, Lapid said he believed Israel has "earned the right to be more concerned than anymore else" and "to be listened to" about Iran's nuclear program.
"We've been so loud about this agreement with Iran because for us it's not academic or theoretical, it's existential. Here's a regime that's being loud - not about having a dispute with Israel - but about its wish and commitment to the destruction of Israel."