Olmert pissed off 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked his ministers to stop speaking about the Iranian nuclear situation and the controversial US National Intelligence Estimate in Sunday's cabinet meeting, the press interpreted it as criticism of Public Security Minister Avi Dichter.
Dichter raised an uproar when he told an audience in Holon on Saturday that the misconceptions of the American report could result in a regional war breaking out that could threaten Israel. But sources close to Olmert and Dichter said the two men remained on good terms and Olmert even invited him to dinner at his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Sources in Kadima revealed that the scolding was also - perhaps even primarily - intended for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who reportedly issued much harsher criticism of the American report and also attacked US President George W. Bush personally in a speech on Wednesday at the Institute for National Security Studies. Unlike Dichter, who criticized the report openly, Barak insisted on being quoted as a "high-ranking diplomatic source."
"Bush failed in his handling of the nuclearization of Iran," Barak said, according to press reports. "The US failed in putting the brakes on the Iranian bomb. If the Iranian nuclear threat was closer to the US, like in Mexico or Cuba, the American reaction would have been much more serious."
Barak said the Bush administration made a mistake by confronting the Chinese on human rights violations and the Taiwan issue, and the Russians about Chechnya and the stationing of missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. He said Bush should have instead tried to cooperate with Russia and China against Iran.
"The chances of drafting an international coalition against Iran while Bush is president approach zero," Barak said. "We are waiting for the next administration."
Regarding the report, Barak said it was "impacted by the American political atmosphere and not professional considerations."
Olmert's associates said they knew the statements had been made by Barak and that they were "irresponsible."
"The prime minister and the diplomatic level do not accept such statements," a source in the Prime Minister's Office said. "It's very unfortunate that such things were said."
Olmert's spokesman said the scolding was intended for all of the ministers who have spoken about Iran.
Barak's associates responded that even though his statements were widely reported, he spoke off the record, he was misquoted and he did not even mention Bush's name in his speech.
"We don't know of such statements, and that's why we are surprised by Olmert's reaction," a Barak associate said.
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