MK Tzahi Hanegbi ('Likud Beytenu') fired back at former prime minister Ehud Olmert Monday after Olmert attacked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for publicly airing differences with the White House.
In an interview for IDF Radio, Hanegbi said that Olmert had taken advantage, for political needs, of a discussion at a professional venue – the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) – that was supposed to focus on the deal struck with Iran at Geneva.
"He spoke only about one thing, as if we have one enemy, Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Hanegbi said. “It is too bad that he wasted such an important and meaningful event on personal matters against the prime minister.”
"His belief is not new,” added Hanegbi. “He believes that Israel should be the lowly slave of the United States.”
Hanegbi made clear that this was no way to conduct foreign policy. "What is this? We have our positions, even if it comes out in public sometimes. Netanyahu cannot whisper. He can't send a personal e-mail to every one of Israel's citizens and ask that the contents not be passed on to the US ambassador. There are differences of opinion and sometimes they become public.
Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to have a public falling out with the US administration, Hanegbi added. “I remember Prime Minister Sharon saying at a press conference – 'We will not be a vassal state of the United States.' All prime ministers found themselves in a confrontation with the US at some point in their term.”
"We've declared war on the United States administration,” Olmert said at a special debate at the INSS on Sunday.
"First and foremost,” said Olmert, “we must steer clear of anything that might give the impression that we want to lock horns with our biggest ally."
Disagreements with the US, he explained, must never be handled in a way “that might give the impression, G-d forbid... of a provocative tone of personal confrontation with the man whose goodwill and support for the state of Israel are perhaps the most important basis for the state of Israel's strategic interest.”
Hanegbi left Likud with Olmert to join Kadima under Ariel Sharon in 2005, but returned to Likud years later and was elected to the Knesset on the Likud list in 2013.