Olmert. Siege unnecessary?
Photo: AP
Barak. 'Caused diplomatic damage'
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Olmert aides: Barak responsible for siege
Following decision to ease blockade on Strip, former prime minister's associates blame defense minister for Israel's 'coriander and pasta policy' which was harshly criticized by world. 'He was the one who insisted on preventing the inflow of products with no security risk,' one of them says
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night that the government "has taken the right decision for Israel from a security and political point of view" in significantly easing the siege on Gaza, which was imposed by the Olmert government.


On Monday morning, the former prime minister's associates said Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who served in the same role in the Olmert government, was fully responsible for the "coriander and pasta policy".


A state official who served in Ehud Olmert's bureau said Monday morning that "Barak and Amos Gilad (head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau) insisted on maintaining this policy, which hurt Israel."


The sources said that Olmert and his associates had tried to convince Barak to change the list of products several times, but that the defense minister insisted on preventing the inflow of products which led to heavy criticism against Israel.


According to the source, "Netanyahu is right in criticizing the pasta siege policy, but the one responsible for it, the person who came up with it and executed it, was Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


"We appealed to him and to Amos Gilad more than once to change the policy and allow products, which clearly pose no security risk, to enter the Strip. The pasta case was the most outstanding case."


So why didn't the prime minister intervene? "Time and again they told us that the coordinator of the government activities in the territories would determine the list of banned products. There were cases in which we managed to impose our stand, particularly when the world's countries would appeal to us on deliveries and different products they sent."


Olmert's associates added that Barak's firm stand against changing the policy "caused diplomatic damage to Israel and weakened the ability to explain its stand on security-related issues.


"When you prevent the entry of pasta, you can't explain that it's used to build bunkers. It weakens the claim on the things that are really dangerous. When you have coriander and iron on the same list, it's hard to explain it to the world as a security risk, but Barak insisted."


The defense minister is on an official visit to the United States and was unavailable for comment.


 new comment
See all talkbacks "Olmert aides: Barak responsible for siege "
This will delete your current comment