Calls from left and right for Olmert to quit after nuclear “slip”
By Israel Insider staff and partners December 12, 2006

A week after the incoming US defense secretary, it was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s turn to dissolve the long-maintained ambiguity surrounding Israel’s nuclear capabilities. As he kicked off his European visit with a stop in Berlin, Olmert put his foot in his mouth as he stumbled through an interview with the German SAT1 television network and asserted that Iran wants nuclear weapons, just like Israel and other countries with nuclear weapons.Olmert said that “Israel is a democracy and does not threaten anyone. The only thing we have tried to do is to live without terror, but we have never threatened anyone with annihilation. Iran explicitly, openly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map.”

“Can you see that is the same level when you are aspiring to have a nuclear weapon as America, France, Israel and Russia?” he asked, rhetorically, although his halting command of English left some question about his intended meaning.

While it remains unclear if this admission was intentional or not, it is a clear deviation from the 50-plus year old policy of nuclear ambiguity. And the manner in which it was stated left Israeli politicians aghast at the verbal ineptitude of the man who presumes to lead the country.

Former Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) called on Olmert to resign his post following “a series of problematic security-related slips of the tongue.”

A senior cabinet minister told Ynet, however, that there was nothing exciting about Olmert’s statement as “everyone knows what we do have and what we don’t have.”

“His unfortunate statement in Germany damages 50 years of Israel’s policy of ambiguity,” said MK Steinitz, “and that only joins other irresponsible slips like the wretched report on the conditions of the kidnapped soldiers. A prime minister who cannot control his statements on sensitive matters of security must resign and leave the keys.”

Minister: Everyone knows we have nuclear arms
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, a major player in Israel’s nuclear program, is currently in Paris and declined to comment on Olmert’s statement.

But an senior cabinet minister, hiding behind anonymity, told Ynet on Monday that he doesn’t understand why there is such a commotion over Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s admission that Israel has nuclear weapons.

“It’s as if the world is hearing about this for the first time,” said the minister. “Everyone knows we have nuclear weapons. Israel has never admitted to it, but everyone knows what we do have and what we don’t have.”

Former defense minister and current National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also addressed the subject, restating the traditional Israeli position: “Israel has always had a policy of ambiguity. We have always strived to lead a policy of ambiguity.”

Meretz-Yahad Chairman MK Yossi Beilin called Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s comments Monday on the nuclear issue “recklessness bordering on abandon”.

“I doubt if this is someone who deserves to serve as prime minister,” he said.

MK Arieh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party) addressed the comment made by PM Olmert confirming that Israel has nuclear weapons.

MK Eldad said that “If Olmert indeed meant to forgo Israel’s policy of ambiguity there should be a clear message to the world from us — if you don’t stop Iran, we will, at any price.”

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