The minister of housing, Ariel Sharon, denied yesterday that he had said Israel should attack Iraq for the purpose of breaking apart the anti-Iraq war coalition. Sharon said that the statement attributed to him was outrageous, and he characterized a leak from deliberations involving human lives as no less outrageous.
Other ministers claimed that this was exactly what Sharon had said, taking aback the other participants in the meeting. According to them, Sharon said that Israel should act against Iraq so as to break apart the international coalition, and thus best serve the Israeli interest. Otherwise, this coalition would, after the war, pressure Israel by demanding significant concessions. This should be prevented ahead of time.
The ministers said they were stunned by Sharon's words. When they asked the prime minister to respond to Sharon's speech, Shamir said that "in conformity with the policy of restraint, I am listening to everybody until he finishes, without interrupting him."
Responsible for the leak was Knesset Member Yossi Sarid. Notice of what had transpired at the [government] meeting reached the Knesset plenum. Stunned to the core, Sarid at once drafted an announcement to the press. In it he asserted that "today's utterances by Sharon are wild and insane, made by an adventurer devoid of inhibitions, determined to bring a calamity upon Israel."
In this way, Sarid said, "Sharon has become a wartime security risk. It is up to the prime minister to remove him from the government and from any position wherein he can influence Israeli policies."
Censorship decided that, unlike the utterances of the ministers, Sarid's [announcement] did not need to be censored. In the newscast, however, an explanation of its context was needed. As noted, Sharon denies ever saying what is attributed to him.