Israel’s leaders ‘furious’ over Barak tapes describing aborted plans to hit Iran
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Israel’s leaders ‘furious’ over Barak tapes describing aborted plans to hit Iran

In recordings played on TV, ex-defense minister details 3 occasions when Israel came close to striking nuke facilities; ex-colleagues say his account not entirely accurate

Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaking with Ehud Barak at the Defense Ministry in 2012 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaking with Ehud Barak at the Defense Ministry in 2012 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)

Israel’s leadership, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on down, is reportedly furious with former defense minister Ehud Barak for having detailed on tape three occasions in 2010-2012 when Israel was ostensibly on the point of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israel’s Channel 2, which broadcast the bombshell recordings on Friday night, said Saturday that the “anger” at Barak was widespread in the Israeli leadership, and that numerous senior political and security officials were also privately intimating that Barak’s version of events was not entirely accurate. The Prime Minister’s Office did not issue an official response to the broadcast.

In the tapes, whose broadcast Barak fought unsuccessfully to block, he claims that he and Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran in 2010, but that then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi indicated that there was no viable plan for such an operation; that they were thwarted in 2011 by the opposition of fellow ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Yuval Steinitz; and that a planned 2012 strike was aborted because it happened to coincide with a joint Israel-US military exercise and Israel did not want to drag the US into the fray.

In the aftermath of the broadcast of the tapes, Channel 2 said Saturday, various key Israeli figures indicated that Ashkenazi did not rule out an operation as decisively as Barak suggested, and that a great deal of preparatory work had been done. Furthermore, the TV report Saturday said, Ashkenazi was by no means the only senior Israeli figure who was not decisively supportive of a strike at that time. Others included then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who later made public his opposition, and top ministers including Dan Meridor and Eli Yishai.

A worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran,  Oct. 26, 2010. (Photo credit: AP/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour)
A worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010. (AP/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour)

Even if approval had been forthcoming for a strike, the TV report said, it was by no means certain that Israel would have actually gone ahead with it. The discussions described by Barak may have been “more a case of hold us back,” than a genuine determination by Netanyahu and Barak to carry out an attack.

Channel 2 also suggested that Barak may be playing party politics with his comments. Ashkenazi is said to be considering entering politics, and Barak, who has now retired from politics, may be out to thwart him. The two became bitter rivals over the years, and Barak’s relationship with current defense minister Ya’alon has also been tempestuous.

The material in the tapes comes from conversations related to a new biography of Barak being written by Danny Dor and Ilan Kfir. The former defense minister, who was also previously prime minister and chief of staff, attempted to prevent the broadcasting of the recordings, but Israel’s military censors allowed Channel 2 to play them.

The air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities were ostensibly planned to take place because Netanyahu and Barak anticipated that Iran would enter a “zone of immunity,” in which its facilities were so well-protected or developed as to render an attack on them either a short-term solution or even futile. Netanyahu maintains to this day, however, that Israel will act alone if necessary to prevent Iran attaining nuclear weapons, and has been a leading critic of the P5+1 deal with Iran that curbs but does not dismantle its nuclear program.

From right to left: Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then-chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in 2009 (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
From right to left: Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then-chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in 2009 (Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

Barak was said Friday to have expressed outrage that the recordings had been released.

Steinitz said it was grave that such material was broadcast and had no comment on the specifics, while Ya’alon said he had no comment on what he called biased and skewed material.

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