Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Saturday night to attempt to patch up ties after their once solid relationship showed signs of cracking last week.
The two agreed to continue to work together to counter the Iranian nuclear threat and, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, to let Netanyahu take the lead in coordinating ties with the US.
Tensions between the two top leaders erupted last week after the prime minister reportedly expressed dismay over a recent trip Barak took to the US, which Netanyahu said was an attempt to undermine his lobbying efforts vis-a-vis dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
The two met for three hours Saturday night, ending their talk just after midnight.
“The defense minister sees eye to eye with the prime minister on the Iranian threat in every aspect, and also in the management of ties with the US led by the prime minister,” Netanyahu’s bureau said in a statement released after the sit-down.
Before the meeting, an aide to the defense minister, Barak Seri, told Army Radio that the defense minister “would not accept being rebuked by anyone, including the prime minister.” Barak was said to feel that at his age, and with his standing, he was above being reprimanded, and to be insistent that his meetings with US officials were all conducted for the benefit of Israel.
According to Army Radio, Netanyahu was expected to demand Barak promise to not undermine his relationship with the US again.
Netanyahu has had a close working relationship with Barak during his current term, but was said to be particularly incensed by certain meetings during Barak’s trip to the US late last month, notably a face-to-face meet with former presidential aide and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Netanyahu said Barak “went to the US to play the role of the moderate ‘savior,’ reconciling the sides” over the best way to grapple with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, according to a report on Channel 2 TV.
Barak said that Netanyahu knew about the meeting and that the defense minister had worked both in Israel and in the US to represent the government’s position, bolster American support for Israel’s security and “reduce tension” between the sides — an apparent dig at Netanyahu’s management of Israel’s most important strategic relationship.
Ties between Netanyahu and the White House have been rocky since Netanyahu’s election and have notably worsened over the Iran crisis in recent months, with US officials warning against an Israeli military strike at Iranian nuclear sites.
Netanyahu has recently been asking the US to set “red lines” for Iran that, if crossed, would trigger military action. The Obama administration has refused to do so. The White House failed to arrange a meeting for Netanyahu with President Barack Obama during the prime minister’s visit to the US for the UN General Assembly at the end of September, first claiming that Netanyahu had not sought a meeting and then claiming scheduling problems made it impossible.