Barak: PM's speech cynical, troubling

Defense minister promises to eventually topple gov't, says Olmert won't destroy him politically.

Barak 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's speech at the special Knesset session dedicated to the Second Winograd Report was "cynical and troubling," and "it would have been better had [the speech] not been made," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday to close confidants. Olmert had begun his speech by defending his decision to go to war, reminding the MKs that he had received the overwhelming support of the Knesset to launch the Second Lebanon War after Hizbullah abducted two IDF soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, 2006. "The unequivocal opinion of the defense establishment before the Second Lebanon War was that in the case of an abduction attempt or rocket attacks, Israel must respond harshly in the entire area in a disproportionate fashion," the prime minister said. A day after he gave new life to Olmert's premiership by announcing that he would remain in the government, Barak vowed Monday to bring down Olmert - eventually. Barak responded to charges from his critics in and out of the Labor faction, who warned him that Olmert and Vice Premier Haim Ramon would take advantage of his loyalty to keep the government alive and then take away Labor's votes. "No one will destroy me politically," Barak told a confidant at the Knesset. "Olmert is the last one who can destroy me politically. I will find the right time in the not too distant future to topple the government." Barak continued to threaten Olmert later in a meeting of the Labor faction. "Olmert thinks he lives in a glass house," Barak told the MKs. "If he continues to behave that way, we will have to break him." Barak gave the members of his faction the same explanation for why he decided to remain in the coalition that he gave the press on Sunday. He said he understood those who disagreed with him. He promised them that he would know when the right time would be to advance the next election. The defense minister used Monday's terrorist attack in Dimona to justify the need for him to remain in the government at this time. "If any of us thought he needed help understanding the complex situation that we are in now, he could have received it in what happened... in Dimona," Barak said. Four Labor MKs who opposed Barak's decision to remain in the government criticized him in the faction meeting. MKs Ophir Paz-Pines, Eitan Cabel, Danny Yatom and Shelly Yacimovich met at Yacimovich's Tel Aviv home on Sunday night to coordinate strategy for their battle against Olmert. Olmert also faces problems in Shas. Party chairman Eli Yishai renewed his threat on Monday that his faction would bolt the coalition if child welfare payments were not raised. Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report