Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "gang" and their comments on the Iranian nuclear issue have "caused damage to Israel," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Hayom in a special interview, to be published in full on Friday.
In an unprecedented verbal attack against Olmert, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin, who recently criticized the defense minister and prime minister of being unfit to confront the Iranian threat, Barak said, "It is not hard to see who [these remarks] are serving -- Iran and the groups it controls."
Last week, Diskin aroused ire when he accused the country's two top political leaders of being "messianic" and exaggerating the effectiveness of a possible military attack on Iran. "They're creating a false impression about the Iranian issue," Diskin said Friday. "They're appealing to the idiotic public, if you'll pardon me for the phrasing, and telling them that if Israel acts, there won't be an (Iranian) nuclear bomb."
Speaking at The Jerusalem Post conference on Sunday, Olmert refused to comment on Diskin's statements, but said, "I am familiar with the heads of the security establishment. Some worked with me and they are not necessarily enemies of Israel. We have to ask what is going on when all former security-related leaders suddenly have the same opinion. As long as they were in office, they were our heroes, and now they are enemies of Israel? If they say the military option should be our last option, they are said to be politically motivated. But perhaps they simply have a different opinion?"
The comments by Diskin and Olmert come after repeated remarks by former Mossad head Dagan against an attack on Iran. Last summer, Dagan called a strike against Iran's nuclear program "stupid," and said an effective attack on Iran would be difficult because Iranian nuclear facilities are scattered and mobile, and warned it could trigger war.
In his interview to Israel Hayom, Barak said, "[Olmert's cronies] travel all over the world and their remarks serve to weaken the not-inconsequential achievement of Israeli policy, which has turned the Iranian nuclear threat into an important and urgent issue, not only for Israel, but for the world at large."
"There are things that cannot be discussed in an open forum without the mere discussion causing damage to the issue,” Barak said. “In the U.K. there are things over which it is customary to say, 'It's not done' -- they shouldn't be discussed. In Diskin's case, [the Iranian issue] is not even his specialty, nor is it his responsibility. It is the government that makes the decisions. The norm which governs people who worked closely with the prime minister and defense minister has been breached. What's more, there are such big differences between their behavior and willingness to work and even their desire to extend their tenure then, when they were still in their position, and their behavior now, after they've completed their tenure.”
Barak told Israel Hayom that there might need to be an intensification of the law requiring former security agency chiefs to face a cooling-off period before entering politics: "In the U.S., someone who was chief of staff must wait 10 years before he can become defense secretary," he said.
Olmert was quick to respond on Monday to Barak's attack. A statement issued by the former prime minister's office, and quoted by Haaretz on Monday, said, "The fact that a former prime minister and the three former heads of Israel's security agencies, who have acted jointly and separately for years on the most sensitive matters relating to Israel's security, believe, without exception, that Barak, who will soon be gone from the political map in Israel, is inflicting great damage to the state's security, should come as a warning signal for every citizen."
Meanwhile, a smiling Barak arrived at a press conference on Wednesday at Beit Sokolov to launch his Independence party's election campaign.
"Independence, under my leadership, is running in the upcoming elections," Barak declared, in an attempt to dispel any rumors that a spot would be reserved for him on the Likud's list. The press conference also revealed the party's election slogan: "Putting the country in the center."
"We are appealing to citizens -- come take the road to success with us," Barak said.
The defense minister took the opportunity to also criticize Yair Lapid, who spoke a day earlier in support of his new party Yesh Atid ("There Is a Future") using the help of two teleprompters. "We came here without teleprompters, but with a record, with the things we have achieved and continue to achieve," Barak said.
Commenting on polls, most of which predict that the Independence party will not pass the electoral threshold in the upcoming elections, Barak said: "I remind everyone to check where Kadima was in the polls three months ago and where it is today. This morning, I saw a poll on television which showed that we jumped this week by 50 percent, from two seats to three, beyond the electoral threshold. In the face of the downward trend the other parties are facing, we take pride in this leap and we believe it will continue."