With only five days left before the national elections, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that incumbent leader Bibi Netanyahu could cause an irreparable rift between Israel and its closest ally.
The criticism came on the backdrop of reports citing President Barack Obama acerbically criticizing Netanyahu for announcing plans to build thousands of new homes in the disputed E1 area of the West Bank in November.
Obama said in closed-door briefings that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are” and asserted that Netanyahu’s policies are leading the Jewish state down a path of near-total isolation within the international community.
Olmert blasted Netanyahu for getting into “a blunt confrontation with the most powerful man in the world,” suggesting that Israel isn’t in a position to show contempt for the US, which provides the Jewish state with billions in military aid each year.
Olmert made the remarks during a conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
“While the American defense budget is facing cuts, (Obama) supports the Iron Dome,” Olmert said, referring to the president’s move to release funds for Israel’s aerial defense system. “This is a president who says in the middle of a conflict that he won’t let Israel lose its advantage. But the Israeli government doesn’t think so.”
The Israeli government, Olmert continued, “rejects peace. It rejects the process and refuses to talk to the moderates on the Palestinian side. It doesn’t want an agreement. There’s no other way to say it.”
The former prime minister also ventured to criticize the current government’s financial policies, stating that defense expenditures under Netanyahu have exceeded the approved budget by 20%.
“These funds weren’t allocated towards needs that are vital to the State of Israel,” he said. “Anyone who dares to say that most of the expenses went towards building infrastructure for the future isn’t telling the truth.
“And I haven’t even gotten to the acquisition of the submarine and the NIS 10 billion that are spent on armored half-tracks,” he continued. “We must invest in equipment, but armored half-tracks? Where would we take them?”
He argued in favor of reducing the defense budget and refraining from “going against the common global position and against our closest allies.”
Olmert branded the budget deficit that Israel is facing as “monstrous,” casting the blame, yet again, on the prime minister.
“I hear the prime minister saying that he won’t raise taxes or cut the defense budget, and that the public won’t feel the burden,” he said. “Tell me, who are you trying to fool?
“A weak leader who doesn’t have courage won’t win the public’s trust,” he said.
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