Feud between Olmert and Barak intensifies

Barak slams Olmert’s claims that he had presented false data in order to end IDF operation against Hamas as “baseless and false.”

Barak and Olmert 311 (photo credit: AP)
Barak and Olmert 311
(photo credit: AP)
Less than a week before the second anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Defense Minister Ehud Barak slammed claims by former prime minister Ehud Olmert that he intentionally limited the success of the massive IDF operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
During an exclusive interview broadcast on Channel 2 television’s “Uvda” Thursday night, Barak described Olmert’s claims that Barak had presented false data in order to end the operation as “baseless and false.”
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“It is clear that the IDF could have smashed Hamas and returned to controlling Gaza, but there is a difference in leaders between a parody of Churchillianism and making decisions regarding human lives,” said Barak during the interview.
The defense minister accused Olmert of trying to take a “second chance” following the Second Lebanon War, and said that “the IDF chief of General Staff and I made sure that that would not happen.”
In the course of the interview that highlighted the already high tension between the two former colleagues in the previous government, Barak also said that in light of the harsh criticisms that had been aired of Olmert’s leadership, “the former prime minister should be careful with the criticisms that he himself uses.”
Olmert, he said, “is more worthy of mercy than of anything else, and I don’t even want to anticipate what the courts will say about his believability.”
Olmert’s memoirs, some chapters of which have been revealed prior to the book’s publication, have been exceptionally critical of the Labor Party leader, who joined Olmert’s cabinet following the Second Lebanon War.
Olmert has reportedly accused Barak of failing to utilize a government decision to enlist 60,000 reservists during Operation Cast Lead in order to remove active Hamas cells from the Gaza Strip. Instead, Olmert said that Barak purposely called up only onethird of that number in order to render the operation less successful.
Olmert responded to Barak’s verbal assault quickly, focusing on Barak’s own tenure as prime minister. In a statement, Olmert’s office accused Barak of having “reconciled with the kidnapping and killing of IDF soldiers on Mt. Dov without any response, which led to a continued downturn including rocket attacks, assaults and kidnapping of our soldiers by Hizbullah, which made the Second Lebanon War inevitable.” That war, the statement added, put an end to the cycle of events in the North that was caused by Barak’s faulty leadership.
Barak, the statement said, also failed in his response to the Second Intifada, which erupted during his premiership.
“He did everything he could to defend Hamas and to prevent its downfall in the Gaza Strip, while acting to undermine the government,” accused Olmert’s office. “In the last two years, he has severely failed in his inability to stop the Turkish flotilla and has avoided fighting Hamas, which is continuing to strengthen in Gaza. All this has led to the renewal of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.” Barak, it reiterated, “is a clear example of someone who has failed, and is the last person who should be distributing grades.”
The tension between the two Ehuds has escalated in recent months following the advance publication of chapters of Olmert’s memoirs. In September, Olmert described Barak as hesitant in making key decisions, tying the comments to hints made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu regarding the 2007 raid against a Syrian nuclear facility that is widely attributed to Israeli forces. One month later, Barak labeled accusations made by Olmert in the book as the rantings of a man in distress.
“After I forced him out of office, I didn’t expect him to embrace me,” Barak said. “But he is in distress, so I don’t want to judge him. His credibility will be decided by the courts.”