Don't get the wrong impression: Peres is not always reserved, he knows how to get angry and say awful things about people he does not respect. During PM Netanyahu's three and a half years in office the president has been very cautious - some say even overly cautious. But last week the man behind Israel's nuclear program decided that he would not remain silent anymore.
Netanyahu and Barak managed to drive Peres crazy. Their conduct, the briefings they gave to the press regarding a possible strike in Iran, and particularly their attitude towards US President Obama - troubled Peres. The Israeli president believes Netanyahu and Barak may lead the country into a horrible reality as a result of an attack in Iran, which, even by their own estimates, would only delay Tehran's nuclear program by a year or a year and a half.
This is why Peres decided to warn against an Israeli strike without coordinating it with the US. The president seemed to be hinting that such a fateful decision should not be placed in the hands of these two fellas – Netanyahu and Barak.
And yet, Peres chooses his words carefully. He says that his role as president obligates him to act with added caution so as not to create crises and disputes with the prime minister. In closed talks, Peres has said that if he has to criticize Netanyahu publicly, he'd rather focus on the premier's foot-dragging vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the lack of initiative to jumpstart the peace negotiations.
"I urge him to stop the annexation of the West Bank," the president explains. But, with regards to the stalled peace process, Peres has given up on Netanyahu and does not believe the PM really wants to break the stalemate.
Peres has joined a long list of heads of state who were duped by Netanyahu into thinking that he is really interested and is capable of going down in history as the leader who worked to resolve the bloody conflict with the Palestinians and chose the path of a fair compromise. This is why Peres decided to finally go public with his views on a solo Israeli attack on Iran.
Netanyahu and Barak, on the other hand, took off their gloves. The responses issued through the PM's aides, which referred to the Oslo Accords and Peres' opposition to the 1981 strike on the Iraqi reactor, were insulting, baseless and downright nasty. But this is just the beginning: The next few days will likely see wild, personal attacks on the president, and Barak will probably remind everyone of how Peres tried to undermine Rabin.
But Peres' goal has probably been achieved. His decision to openly side with the heads of the security establishment and intelligence agencies was apparently the "tie-breaker" in the dispute between those who support an Israeli strike and those who oppose it.
Netanyahu, who has declared that only he will decide if Israel strikes in Iran and when, will now have to reconsider this firm stance after senior American security officials claimed Israel cannot launch a successful solo attack on Iran. If there was any doubt that Netanyahu would back down, Peres has made it easier for him. Now all that remains is to wait and see what Netanyahu will write in his memoirs about the preparations for the strike, which have already cost Israel billions of shekels, and why he decided not to give the order to attack.