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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Attacks from the Prime Minister's Office on opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu following his statements about Syria will boomerang and increase Netanyahu's support, Likud officials said Thursday.
Netanyahu caused a storm Wednesday when he told Channel 1 that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert updated him on the details of the IAF operation in Syria and that he congratulated the prime minister on its success.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office reacted with anger, accusing Netanyahu of ending two weeks of official secrecy over what happened in Syria. Kadima officials said Netanyahu violated the trust Olmert showed him.
"Bibi's faux pas borders on national irresponsibility," an official in the Prime Minister's Office said. "This proves Bibi is irresponsible, sick and has no judgment. Breaking the code of silence proves that he is dangerous."
Sources close to Netanyahu responded that the officials in Olmert's office and politicians who attacked him went too far. They warned against a double standard against Netanyahu, saying he did not refer to any specific operation or divulge any details.
"Cynical politicians are using Israeli security falsely as an excuse to attack Netanyahu and blow his words out of proportion," a source close to Netanyahu said. "No one can tell Binyamin Netanyahu what Israeli security is. He is the only prime minister in the last 15 years who brought quiet to this country."
The politicians who attacked Netanyahu connected his statement on Syria to previous comments that raised an uproar, such as telling kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kadourie that the Left "forgot what it means to be Jewish," recalling former minister Rehavam Ze'evi as serving in his cabinet when he never did, and rushing to admit an extramarital affair on national television after being told of a videotape that never surfaced.
Labor secretary-general Eitan Cabel berated Netanyahu for the statement, implying that it might have been motivated by his desire to take credit for the IAF's success.
"Bibi hasn't changed," he said. "I have no idea if this is stupidity, foolishness, an attempt to jump on the bandwagon, to steal credit, or whatever else. Netanyahu's attitude is clearly dangerous. He is simply unworthy of leadership."
Olmert reportedly instructed his ministers not to react to Netanyahu.
But Minister-without-Portfolio Ruhama Avraham, who once was Netanyahu's secretary, lashed out at her former boss.
"Obviously Bibi's judgment is impaired," she told Army Radio. "When it comes to security matters this is a real problem. Polls put him under pressure and sometimes he talks without thinking."
Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, one of the MKs closest to Olmert, said, "Even at the price of harming Israel's security, Bibi will do anything to show he is in on security secrets." He said it was "dangerous to entrust state secrets to Netanyahu because he proved he puts his personal political interest ahead of the national interest."
Netanyahu asked Likud MKs to defend him in the press. MK Yuval Steinitz called his party chairman's statements "unfortunate," but insisted that they did not cause any real damage.
"This attempt to stir up a tempest in a tea cup, to say [the statement] did not harm security, while all the while trying to inflict damage on Netanyahu himself, is inappropriate," he told Army Radio. "During the Yamim Noraim [Days of Awe] especially, I expect that we would try not to hurt one another, and that we would not inflate a statement that was interpreted in an unfortunate manner and probably should have been phrased differently."
Likud MK Gilad Erdan said, "We would expect Olmert, who only a few months ago exposed Israel's nuclear capability through his endless blabber, to stay quiet and not create a fuss over nothing."
A poll taken by Yitzhak Katz broadcast Thursday on Israel Radio found support for Olmert had risen but was still low, Netanyahu's backing was stable and Labor chairman Ehud Barak had lost support.
The poll found that if an election were held today, Netanyahu would win 30 percent of the vote, Barak 23% and Olmert 8%. In Katz's last poll for the station a month ago, Netanyahu received 32%, Barak 30% and Olmert 5%.