Akiva Eldar writes: It is hard to overstate the importance of the recorded confession by former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in which he reveals past discussions of a closed and confidential security forum concerning an eventual strike against Iran, aired by Channel 2 on Aug. 21. At this stage, clearing the ambiguity surrounding the plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities by one of its senior advocates is almost as important as renouncing Israel’s policy on its nuclear program. From Barak’s recorded comments, it appears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favored a military solution to the Iranian military nuclear threat over “peaceful means.” Two civilians and one military man — Ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Yuval Steinitz, members of the “Forum of Eight” and then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi — stopped Netanyahu, Barak and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman from going to war with Iran and perhaps with the entire region. On another occasion, according to Barak, American military maneuvers conducted in the region prevented an Israeli military move against Iran.
Barak’s disclosures call into question not only the judgment of the two Israeli leaders, turning a rumor about an Israeli decision to attack Iran into a quote straight from the mouth of one of the decision-makers, but also the credibility of the incumbent prime minister. In his March 3 speech to Congress, Netanyahu declared that “no country has a greater stake than Israel in a good deal that peacefully removes this threat.” He stressed that the alternative to the “bad deal,” in his words, was not war, as the supporters of the agreement contended, but rather a “good deal.” But the problem is that according to Barak, both of them came up with the war alternative long before anyone knew the nature of the deal with Iran, and whether an agreement would be signed at all.
How did Netanyahu know on March 3 that the deal wouldn’t “be a farewell to arms … (but) a farewell to arms control, and the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires?” In those days, the United States kept Israel out of the loop regarding negotiations after the White House accused it of “cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.” In reaction to April’s Lausanne understanding, Netanyahu warned that the proposed deal presents a real threat to the region and to the world and that “a deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of the State of Israel.” After that, negotiations continued for another three months, during which many drafts were prepared and endless changes introduced into central articles. [Continue reading…]