Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slammed Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday for allowing the Likud to equate him with Hamas in the party's election commercials, calling Netanyahu's behavior incitement that could threaten Olmert's life.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Olmert recalled that Netanyahu was blamed for a handbill of Yitzhak Rabin in an SS uniform that appeared during a Jerusalem rally at which Netanyahu made an address a month before Rabin's assassination in 1995. Olmert said Netanyahu was repeating his mistake by permitting a picture of Olmert wearing a Hamas hat to be published on an unofficial Web site of Likud activists called Likudnik.
"Bibi is saying that Hamas is a threat to Israel that must be destroyed," Olmert said. "I see Likud ads that say 'Olmert is Hamas' and pictures of me with a Hamas hat and the Hamas symbol next to me. I say to Bibi, have you not learned anything? Have you not learned any lessons? Such wild incitement again? What is a 'hilltop youth' supposed to think when they tell him that Hamas is such a threat and that Hamas is next to his house and then they say that Ehud Olmert is Hamas!"
Olmert said he did not blame Netanyahu for Rabin's murder, but that he was "very disappointed with him."
"We are political opponents and I have never hidden that, but this kind of extremism and incitement?" he added.
A Likud spokesman responded that nothing in the Likud's ads equated Olmert with Hamas. The spokesman said that the Likudnik Web site was unaffiliated with the party and that Netanyahu had no control over its content.
The proprietors of the Web site said they saw nothing wrong with running the picture of Olmert in the Hamas hat.
Asked whether he could work with Netanyahu in a future government despite the bad blood between them, Olmert said he "would not rule out in advance any Jewish, Zionist party being a part of the coalition," and that he "could work together with anyone who is serious and responsible."
When asked whether Labor chairman Amir Peretz met those specifications, Olmert responded: "There are a lot of people who are unqualified to be prime minister, but that doesn't mean that they cannot handle any responsibility at all."
Olmert acknowledged that Kadima had fallen in the polls under his leadership, but said he was not in competition with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He said he was confident people would realize that the way to stabilize the Israeli government was to allow Kadima to win a big victory in the March 28 election.
"It's important that Kadima get enough votes to bring stability to the political system for the first time in way too long," Olmert said. "We need to end the political extortion and stop there from being elections every two years. The Israeli democracy can no longer tolerate this situation."