Barak calls potential Trump-Rouhani talks a ‘red light’ for all of Israel
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Barak calls potential Trump-Rouhani talks a ‘red light’ for all of Israel

Former PM says Netanyahu too dependent on US president and made vulnerable by his erratic policies

Former PM Ehud Barak participates in a Saturday Culture event in Shoham, August 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Former PM Ehud Barak participates in a Saturday Culture event in Shoham, August 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said US President Donald Trump’s potential rapprochement with Iran was a “red light” for Israel, and warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was overly dependent on the US president and made vulnerable by Trump’s erratic policies.

Trump declared Monday at the G7 talks in Biarritz, France, at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, that he would “certainly agree” to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani soon under the “correct circumstances,” and that there was a “really good chance” this would happen.

“I think he’s going to want to meet. I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out,” Trump added.

He also called Rouhani a “great negotiator,” and indicated he might be open to Iran being offered “a short-term line of credit or loan” to help its economy. “We’re talking about a letter of credit,” he specified. “It would be from numerous countries.” Tehran “may need some money to get over a very rough patch” caused by US economic sanctions, he explained.

This found an echo in Tehran, where Rouhani said more vaguely that he would not miss an opportunity to meet with someone who could help “the interests of the state” and solve some of its difficulties.

Barak, who is running in the upcoming Israeli elections with the left-wing Democratic Camp, wrote in a Twitter thread posted in the early hours Tuesday morning that Israel should be concerned about the development, and about Netanyahu’s close relationship with Trump.

“Trump’s change in direction toward Iran, including the possibility of a presidential meeting, is a red light for all of us, which warns of Netanyahu’s over-dependence on President Trump and his sharp turn-arounds in his stances,” Barak wrote.

“In North Korea we saw war threats that ended in hugs, negotiation deadlocks, then hugs yet again. The same thing could happen with Iran. If the Trump administration continues to implement its plan to withdraw from the Middle East, Israel will have to deal with more complex challenges. Especially when it comes to stopping Hezbollah’s precision missile project and Iranian entrenchment in Syria,” he wrote.

“Today, Netanyahu is more and more dependent on Trump’s mood, which was already proven in the case of the two congresswomen and in the deterioration of relations with the Democratic party and the Jewish community,” Barak said, referring to Israel’s decision to bar Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar earlier this month, and the ensuing diplomatic rift with the Democratic party.

The former PM is not the only one who is concerned about Trump’s about-face with Iran. Top ministers echoed his fears on Monday, according to a Channel 13 report.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a conference in Tehran, Iran, August 26, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

To say that Netanyahu is uncomfortable with the US president’s newly open-minded stance on Iran “is the understatement of the millennium,” the report said, quoting what it said were three senior cabinet ministers expressing profound concern that just as Trump has “gotten nowhere” with North Korea, while relieving the economic pressure on Pyongyang, the same would now happen with Iran.

“We have no interest in a negotiations between the United States and Iran,” the TV report quoted one minister saying, “but our capacity to influence and confront Trump is extremely limited.” This, the report went on, was because Trump has “bear-hugged” Netanyahu so tightly that going out against him is deemed impossible.

Netanyahu has been a strident opponent of the P5+1 countries’ 2015 deal with Iran on its rogue nuclear program, arguing that Tehran is intent on attaining a nuclear weapons arsenal, has lied to the world about its plans, and that the 2015 accord actually paves the way to an Iranian bomb. Trump has hitherto adopted a similar stance, and pulled the US out of the accord last year.

The dramatic change in tone from Washington came as Israel is grappling with soaring tensions relating to Iran, as underlined in a short video clip released by Netanyahu on Monday evening in which he fumed that “Iran is acting in a broad front to produce murderous terror attacks against Israel.”

Netanyahu vowed that “Israel will continue to defend its security by any means necessary,” and urged “the international community to act immediately to ensure Iran stops these attacks.”

On Saturday night, Israel preempted what it said was an Iranian plot to send several “killer drones” into Israel from Syria to attack military and civilian targets, and Israel has also allegedly targeted Iranian-linked sites in Iraq and Lebanon in recent days, drawing protests from political leaders in those countries and threats of revenge from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. The head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Qassem Soleimani, alleged by Israel to have personally overseen the drone plot, warned Sunday that Israel’s military strikes “will surely be the last steps of the Zionist regime.”

Israel is also grappling with rocket fire from Gaza and ongoing border riots, both orchestrated by the Iranian-backed Hamas and Islamic State terror groups.

Barak also castigated Netanyahu on Saturday, accusing him of not standing up to Trump amid his criticism of Jewish Democrats, saying the need to maintain bipartisan support was of vital strategic interest to Israel.

“Netanyahu capitulates to Trump like a puppy and not like a statesman,” Barak said.

He lamented what he termed the government’s “automatic” backing for all of Trump’s comments and its lack of “bravery to say that our relations are with all parts of American society, with both parties.”

He also noted power would eventually change hands between Republicans and Democrats.”

“There they switch presidents every eight years,” Barak said. “It goes from party to party. Even Trump won’t be there forever.”

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