Former prime minister of Israel Ehud Barak.
(photo credit: REUTERS/HERWIG PRAMMER)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert's behavior ahead of the September 2007 Israeli strike on a Syrian nuclear facility was "apocalyptic," as if Israel was about to be destroyed, Ehud Barak, Olmert's defense minister at the time of the strike, said in radio interviews Wednesday.
Barak described an "atmosphere of hysteria" in Olmert's security cabinet in which the prime minister pushed to carry out the attack in Syria before the preparations were completed. He denied Olmert's claims that Barak recommended postponing the strike to the spring, even if the reactor would be hot by then.
"That belongs to Olmert's delusional world," Barak told Radio 103. "Every citizen can judge between the reality connected to the facts and what lives in Olmert's imagination."
Barak revealed that Olmert consulted with him on the strike when he was a private citizen, before he won the Labor Party leadership race. He said the reason he insisted on becoming defense minister immediately after he won the race was that he wanted to be involved in preparations for the attack.
"I made sure the decision was well-thought-out," Barak said. "I never had any worries the Syrian nuclear strike would not be successful."
Barak said it was wise in retrospect that Israel decided not to take immediate credit for the strike, out of fear that would result in Syrian reprisal attacks.
"We understood that we left [Syrian ruler Bashar] Assad room for denials," Barak told Army Radio.
Olmert also consulted with then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the attack. Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who was Netanyahu's chief of staff at the time of the attack, praised it Wednesday on Twitter, noting the Jewish self defense concept of killing before being killed.
"I praise the Israeli government and Ehud Olmert who headed it on the courageous decision for the security of Israel and the pilots of the Israeli Air Force for their perfect and clean carrying out of the operation."
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi revealed that as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the time, he formed a subcommitee of four MKs that included Netanyahu and himself that intensively followed the events before and after the strike. Hanegbi said he was in favor of taking credit for the strike immediately.
By contrast, former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon said it was wrong to take credit for the strike even now.