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Political considerations are not influencing the decision-making about the future of Operation Cast Lead, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak claimed Wednesday.
Though the February 10 general election is only 40 days away, Olmert and spokesmen for Livni and Barak said they were not considering the impact of military moves on the race. None of them denied that they disagreed about tactics for continuing the war, but they said the disputes were unrelated to politics.
"We're in a tense political period, but I won't allow anyone to inflame sensitive military calculations with politics," Olmert told the cabinet. "The defense minister and foreign minister and I are working on this with full cooperation and our decisions are made on a professional basis.
"There can be disagreements between us, but they are legitimate," the premier said. "The public can rest assured that the decisions are made in a cautious, reasonable and responsible manner, without irrelevant considerations."
Olmert's spokesman said that since he was not running for office, he had the benefit of not having to take politics into account.
Regarding whether Barak and Livni were pulling in different directions over how to expand the war, Barak's associates said the Winograd Report that investigated the Second Lebanon War blamed the entire leadership that ran the war and that therefore Olmert, Barak and Livni were "in the same boat," whether or not Operation Cast Lead succeeded.
But political sources confirmed that there was a deep mutual mistrust between the three leaders that clouded their decision-making and that every little decision one of the three made was being scrutinized by the other two.
Two examples were Olmert's criticism of Barak's announcement to reporters that he was considering a cease-fire and disputes between the three of them over their separate press statements Saturday.
But opposition MKs said they doubted that politics was not being considered when the elections were so close, especially given the egos of the three.
"When Menachem Begin was prime minister, decisions could be made without regard to politics, but not with Olmert," Likud MK Reuven Rivlin said. "Even the most naive person would think that politics are a factor in Olmert's, Barak's and Livni's decisions. But I pray that they are not only politicians, but also patriots."
Meretz released a statement saying that it was unclear where the country's leaders were taking the country and what the goals of the war were.
The party warned that after the war, someone would have to explain why it was not stopped at the right time.