Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday responded to criticism by his predecessor, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who accused him of spending NIS 11 billion out of the defense budget on "hallucinatory escapades that will never be realized."
Netanyahu said in response, "It's a wild and irresponsible statement. Not one shekel was wasted."
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In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Olmert suggested that the Netanyahu administration had spent billions on preparations for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"I knew that 2012 was a decisive year and I think there's a surplus in the defense budget which must be cut," the former prime minister said.
Olmert at the Kinneret College (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Netanyahu said in response, "We have developed offensive and defensive capabilities in near and distant arenas and I think this investment is very important for the State of Israel, in the same way that the billions spent on the fence stopped the infiltrators. We have enhanced the capabilities of the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad for good reason."
He further noted, "I wish I would have found what there is today when I came to office four years ago. I operated on two levels – on one level I tried to bring about international action and use sanctions to place an economic blockade in Iran.
"This worked because there was a second level, in which independent Israeli capabilities were developed. I traveled from one world capital to the other, spoke to world leaders who saw we were very serious and determined to act."
"I think he has his own ways of furthering our common goal of providing security for Israel. There is no exact definition of the president's powers, I speak to him very often, including yesterday, and we work together to shape a common understanding of Israel's essential needs. We don't always see eye to eye."
Olmert did not waste time in firing back. At a conference at the Kinneret College hours after Netanyahu's radio interview, the former PM addressed the 2007 bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor – "an event which took place only according to foreign reports."
"When I hear of ministers lashing out at things I said, the money and investments, I think about this event which no one had heard of before President Bush mentioned a telephone call he had with me," Olmert said.
"Did anybody hear about it? Did anybody blow the horn and announce they were going to do it? The people of Israel woke up one morning to learn that something that had happened prevented a change in its way of life.
"I could have claimed credit for the event in Syria, but there was complete silence. The only one who spoke about it was then opposition chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu, who took it straight to the TV."
Several days after the strike, Netanyahu said he backed the move thus becoming the first Israeli official to confirm there had been a strike.
Olmert further added, "My government did more on the Iranian issue than the current 'all talk' cabinet ever did. We did things I hope no one ever finds out about."
Olmert continued to slam Netanyahu's Iran policy and expressed his support of former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin who came under fire for an interview in which he criticized Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Yuval Stenitz joined Netanyahu in slamming Olmert. "His statements are simply untrue and the sums are inaccurate. It was much less. I am telling the truth – we invested in security and defense just as much as we invested in education, the Negev, the Galilee and Judea and Samaria and in economic growth. We invested in all areas."
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