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OLMERT: Iran hasn’t crossed line yet

April 30th, 2012
01:05 PM ET

In his first sit-down interview in years, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is revealing and controversial speaking with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

by Lucky Gold

Something in my trust is lacking

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former Prime Minister, has spoken out on the widening rift between Israel’s security community and the two men who would make the ultimate decision to attack Iran’s nuclear program – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

In an exclusive interview on Amanpour, Olmert admitted he was “worried” that a preemptive attack on Iran could be a “terrible, terrible mistake for the security and the well-being of Israel.”

Speaking of Netanyahu and Barak, he said, “You have to have full trust in the judgment of those who have to take decisions.  And you could understand from what I said that maybe something in my trust is lacking.”  Asked if he doesn’t have full trust (in the Netanyahu government), Olmert said: “Apparently.”

“We have to create a capacity to defend ourselves,” said Olmert, but Israel should not “rush for certain military actions which are not essential at this point.”

Calculating the steps

When asked if he concurred with the head of the Israel Defense Forces, General Benny Gantz, that Iran’s leadership is rational, Olmert said:  “I know one thing, that the Iranian leadership has not gone beyond a certain line for the time being of developing the nuclear program.”

He added, “And that shows that they are at least thoughtful, which means that they are not rushing, but they are calculating the steps, being aware of the possible ramifications of what they do.”

Olmert was asked to compare the situation in Iran with that in Syria five years ago, when he was Israel’s Prime Minister.  At that time, Syria was developing a nuclear reactor and Israel reportedly launched a clandestine attack to destroy it.

Olmert said, “I think the attempt to draw a comparison between Iran and Syria is false, misleading and dangerous.”
Without ever acknowledging that he ordered an attack, he said:  “The reactor in Syria was about to be operated within days, and therefore there was no time to wait.  You could either do it or you have an atomic reactor that would produce a bomb.”

“In Iran,” he said, “The situation is different.  There is time.  The international is community fully aware.  Everyone knows.  The President of the United States is fully committed to work against it.  And therefore this is a big difference.”

Military action in Iran, he said, should be “the last resort.”  He further stated, “I prefer it would be an American action supported by the international community if all the other efforts would fail.”  He added, “Israel shouldn’t lead it.  America should lead it.”

No Friendship, No Cooperation

In a pointed reference to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s contentious meeting with President Obama in Washington last May, Olmert said it was essential that Israel cooperate with America “from a respectful and serious and careful attitude and not trying to teach the president of America or preach to the president of America or blame the president of America, but rather cooperate with him.”

When asked if Prime Minister Netanyahu appears willing to seek such cooperation with President Obama, Olmert said “My impression is that there is no friendship and that there is no cooperation.”

In contrast, Olmert said he believes President Obama is a friend of Israel – “I have no doubt about it.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. TheThinker1958

    Israel is a neurotic country. Everybody looking at them funny is an enemy. If they were building schools in the neighboring countries they will use 1/2 the money they spend in armament. Is just ridiculous.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • shjjswr

      I always say, go and live in Israel for a few years with your family before deciding whether their investments in defense is warranted or not. When it's your kids getting indiscriminately shelled with rockets during their school lunch hour, I think you'll have a new opinion on the need for defense spending. Tactical nukes and low yield nukes are very serious threat. Atomic demolition munitions ADM's were used in 9/11 and no one even knows what they are. This is very slippery and serious.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      Suddenly Iran gives up their intent on destroying Israel? News to me. How naive can you people be?

      May 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  2. Adam

    This neither revealing or controversial...come on. Not to mention it's cut short.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  3. RUSSKIE

    The line can only be crossed after obama election.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • JJ

      O Bummer!

      May 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  4. 1tata

    Glad to hear that there are politician in Israel who are rational and whose arguments make sense. I commend people who espouse pragmatic views.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Reply
  5. James

    As far as I know Iran is a big and powerful country but can you tell me where is so-called Israel?

    May 1, 2012 at 12:50 am | Reply
    • Hideo

      She's a kid, Cynic. She's been brainwashed to belveie that religion is a fantasy construct made up to explain why the sky gets dark at night. Or maybe her parents (probably, in fact) pay only lip service to their Judaism. Are they twice-a-year Jews? Probably. Frankly, I didn't like Judaism much when I was her age. I liked being a Jew, and I was always a Zionist, but the religion bothered me. Part of that was because I was in my twenties. Part of it was because I was brought up to belveie it was a pain in the ass, always having to follow all these extra rules, clean up and prepare for holidays, go to synagogue on a workday, etc., etc. My mother and grandfather never taught me about the joy in Judaism, only the duty. I discovered the joy all on my own, years later. My brothers? They're not religious at all. This organization is doing a wonderful thing, trying to catch kids who think the way I used to, and give them a reason to like Judaism.

      July 7, 2012 at 12:08 am | Reply
  6. Diogenesx

    Another walter mitty chicken hawk. Probably only Israeli pm ever with no military bkgrnd

    May 1, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
    • Diogenesx

      Netanyahoo of course!!

      May 1, 2012 at 12:53 am | Reply
  7. saudi

    i dont trust the iranians and israelis will take care of this problem for us 100%
    YOUTUBE "Ahmadinejad: islam will conquer the world"
    they are crazy

    May 1, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
    • Dadosuto

      The worst thing is that you people have no knowledge about Islam. Yet so many prophets came to that part of the world, my belief is that they all failed to make you human beings.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  8. Iran isn't Syria - it's much worse!

    Olmert is right but he is no longer in charge – Natanyahu is. It's Bibi who must shoulder all the responsibility in case his judgement turns out to be mistaken.

    Perhaps all this journalist talk is just whistling in the dark – hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.
    The clock is still ticking and it's about three minutes to midnight.

    The Syrians were easily stopped. The Iranians, however, have many nuclear power stations and are moving some of them underground to avoid detection and inspection. Can we trust the present Iranian regime with nuclear weapons?
    The answer is no. In theory, nukes are a deterrent and only to be used as a final resort. The fear is that this Iranian theocratic junta will be tempted to risk using a nuclear tipped missile against Israel as an act of aggression – or could supply a dirty-bomb to its Lebanese allies.

    It's America that must act before it's too late. Not Israel.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:27 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      If there will be no other way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons Israel will have to use force. If it happens, however, Israel will have to use enough force to assure that Iran will not be willing or able to launch a counter-attack.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
    • Dave

      Can you trust war-seeking Israelis and their allies in the US?

      May 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  9. Alexander

    Iran must be destroyed. End of discussion.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  10. Carm

    Why can't us freaks & norms just get along?

    May 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  11. Frank Oliver

    I told you so! What made you change your hawky position? The unmistakenable fact that Iran would slap you back so loud that your eyes would turn in circle!
    Iran has never changed their position; it is the same. If they were about to build the nuclear bomb they still would do it; if they hadn't the intentio they don't have now either.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  12. Bill Simpson

    The Iranians can gain more by building the capability to build nukes, than by actually building them. They test one bomb, and every country in the neighborhood will get them. In 5 years, the Saudis would have more ICBMs than Russia. As it is now, the Iranians are the most powerful potential force in the region, with only Turkey an equal. Once everyone has nukes, their intimidation factor is totally negated, and they spend a fortune in a VERY dangerous nuclear arms race which could lead to Iran being totally destroyed by accident. Why would the Iranians spend a fortune to accomplish poverty and great danger? They practically run Southern Iraq. They get rid of some of the sanctions and business will really boom.
    And the uncertainty might actually be keeping the oil price higher than if the entire area was nuclear armed. Investors HATE uncertainty. "Oh no, the Iranians might get bombed, close the straight, and fire missiles at all the loading facilities. Oil might go to $300 a barrel! I bid $120." That threat disappears once nukes are present.
    They could build a bomb in a year if they were determined to do so, but what would that accomplish? Once the US left Iraq, they knew they were safe from any potential invasion. Even the US generals said that an invasion of Iran would be a "bad idea." There are too many of them to make a land invasion by any of their neighbors practical. Look what they did to Saddam with the West helping him and using poison gas. He got nowhere. They don't need a nuke.
    Now bombing will guarantee that they build a bomb. They get attacked, and you will see a nuclear bomb test within 4 years. They will build hundreds of centrifuge sites if they have to, scattered all over every city in the country.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  13. HUW THOMAS

    He may well come to regret what he has said. More so the people he is supposed to represent will suffer as well. I've just left the home of a friend who failed to protect his family and fled in fear. This happened 5 yrs ago and it still has an effect on him. I took on a vandal and beat him. My conscience is clear and the matter was resolved quickly and efficiently. This is how Israel needs to deal with threats. Doing nothing has cost this race of people dearly in the past. Don't let it happen again. Forget world opinion and defend yourself, because nobody else will.

    Blessings, H.

    May 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  14. Adam

    I think If Isreal is so adament on taking care of the problem, that they should be the first one to cross the border.
    Don't push the responisiblity (as well as the pressure) on to the US, they have taken care of enought problems around the world.

    Of they want to beat their war drums and say that THEIR people are threatened, then THEIR people should deal with it.

    May 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    • Maurice

      OK, well I have been so out of touch since Monday...did W announce he would not be rnnniug for a third term?Did he announce that he was taking the whole month off to be in TX?Did he announce that, despite rumors to the contrary Cheney is NOT the President?Curious minds want to know...

      July 9, 2012 at 1:29 am | Reply
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