The growing tension
between President Shimon Peres
and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
over Peres' comments on a possible strike against Iran
takes another turn as former President Yitzhak Navon expressed his public support for Peres on Saturday.
Navon publicly said that "I feel that if I were in Peres' place, I would most likely have done the same as him."
Navon further recalled that he had intervened in governement decisions after the Sabra and Shatilla Affair.
"I publicly contradicted Prime Minister Menachem Begin
back then when I called to establish a committee headed by a judge which would be tasked with investigating the affair, while Begin wanted to appoint an IDF
officer for the task. My opinion was eventually accepted by the government," he said.
In a statement made by Navon, he said that "It is clear to Peres, as it was clear to me, that it is not the president's place to intervene in government decisions. However, there are times that supersede standard protocol – times where one must say what they truly believe in, even if you're the president," he said.
"During my time as president, I intervened when I felt it was my duty," Navon said adding that "I hope Peres' brave comments resonate with the public."
In an interview with Channel 2, Peres said last week "It is clear that we cannot do it (attack)
on our own. We can delay it (Iran's nuclear program),
but we realize we have to proceed together with America. There are questions of cooperation and of timetables, but as severe as the danger is, at least this time we're not alone."
"Israel has to depend on itself, but when it depends on itself, that does not mean that it has to give up on its friends. When I say 'I have the right to self defense,' that does not mean that I have an obligation to stop talking to everyone! Of course not!" Peres exclaimed.
Before deciding to go public with his position, the president held numerous conversations with a host of officials in an attempt to tip the scales against a solo Israeli attack. During these meetings Peres all but admitted that he trusts President Barack Obama more than he trusts Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Peres leveled harsh criticism at Netanyahu's plan to launch a solo attack in Iran. He expressed his concern that Barak was the driving force behind the plan, and claimed that the defense minister's motivation was political – he wants to survive.
Netanyahu's aides were livid at Peres' comments: "Peres forgot that he made at least three cardinal mistakes related to national security. He erred when he thought the Oslo Accords
would bring a new Middle East, when in reality the process claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis and resulted in terror attacks originating from the territories he ceded to the Palestinians," one of the aides said.
"He was wrong when he thought there would be peace in Gaza
after the disengagement,
when in reality missiles are being fired at Israeli citizens from there. But his biggest mistake was in 1981, when he opposed the bombing of the Iraqi reactor, and luckily Begin ignored him," one aide argued.
Peres' aides said his remarks on national television were not meant as a personal attack on Netanyahu. "He was just expressing his opinion," one of them said.
Attila Somflavi contributed to this report