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Iran is laughing at leaky Israel, says Liberman after new Barak tapes aired

While bashing former defense minister, Yisrael Beytenu leader also takes aim at PM for failing to tackle Iran effectively

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and then-defense minister Ehud Barak at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and then-defense minister Ehud Barak at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel’s former foreign minister said Israel was becoming an international laughing stock and losing some of its deterrent capability because of ongoing leaks about aborted plans to strike at Iran and other classified conversations. The Iranians, he added, now ridicule what he called “hesitant” Israel’s talk of a military option.

Liberman, head of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu party, was speaking on Channel 2 after the TV station broadcast further recordings of ex-defense minister Ehud Barak criticizing the prime minister. On Friday, the same TV station aired excerpts of tapes in which Barak detailed ostensibly aborted plans to strike at Iran in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Barak, in the tapes, said he, Netanyahu and Liberman wanted to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, but were thwarted by domestic opposition.

Liberman said the leaks were costing Israel international credibility, losing it the trust of important partners who would not share sensitive intelligence information with it, and harming its deterrent capability. The country’s leaders are seen as “hesitant” and as “chatterboxes,” he said.

While castigating Barak for making the recordings, however, Liberman also took the opportunity to slam Netanyahu for talking endlessly about possible intervention in Iran while doing nothing.

“When we say all options are on the table, the Iranians ridicule us,” Liberman said.

Netanyahu has called the imperative to thwart Iran’s nuclear program “the mission of his life,” said Liberman. “But if he can’t get the decision he wants approved by his own cabinet, then there’s a problem.” This last comment was a reference to a broadcast of a recording on Friday, in which Barak claimed Netanyahu wanted to strike Iran in 2010 and 2011 but failed to get approval from ministers and security chiefs.

When Menachem Begin decided to wipe out Saddam Hussein’s reactor at Osirak in 1981, Liberman recalled approvingly, “he didn’t talk about it” ahead of time. Rather, “we woke up one morning and the Iraqi reactor didn’t exist.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman visits the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on the 20th anniversary of former prime minister Begin’s death, Feb 27, 2012. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)
Then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman visits the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on the 20th anniversary of former prime minister Begin’s death, Feb 27, 2012. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

Netanyahu sought earlier Sunday to downplay the impact of the Barak recordings, the first of which revealed Israeli deliberations about ultimately abandoned military attacks on Iran, and the latest — released Sunday — that featured Barak calling Netanyahu weak and indecisive.

“The time has come to stop irresponsible talk about matters concerning the country’s security,” Netanyahu said.

The channel on Sunday broadcast fresh clips from the recordings of Barak, Netanyahu’s erstwhile defense minister, made apparently during conversations related to a new biography of himself being written by Danny Dor and Ilan Kfir.

“Bibi [Netanyahu] is weak, he doesn’t want to take difficult steps unless he is forced to,” Barak said, referring to Netanyahu’s appointment of Avichai Mandelblit as cabinet secretary after the former chief military advocate general was linked to the so-called Harpaz affair — an attempt to influence the selection of the new IDF commander in 2010.

Barak also criticized Netanyahu for a difficulty in making decisions.

“Bibi himself is clouded in a sort of deep pessimism, and a tendency… in the balance between fear and hope, he generally prefers to be more fearful, he once called it worried,” Barak said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Sunday that, “Netanyahu continues to act responsibly and firmly for the sake of Israel’s security and that of its citizens, doesn’t bury his head in the sand, points out the dangers and threats as they are and acts with determination and decisiveness, exactly as he did just a few days ago in Syria, and as he has done in dozens of decisions and operations, some of which are kept out of the public eye, and for good reason.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the-then defense minister Ehud Barak attend a press conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the-then defense minister Ehud Barak attend a press conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Last week, the IDF twice struck in Syria in response to a barrage of rockets fired at Israel, allegedly by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists. Air strikes targeted Syrian army positions as well as a vehicle said to be carrying the Islamic Jihad members who fired the rockets.

Barak, who was also previously prime minister and chief of staff, attempted to prevent the Friday broadcast of the recordings in which he discusses Israel’s plans to attack Iran, but the military censors allowed Channel 2 to play them.

In the tapes, Barak claims that he and Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran in 2010, but that chief of staff at the time, 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.

Channel 2, which also broadcast the bombshell recordings made by Barak on Friday night, said Saturday that “anger” at the former defense minister was widespread among 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.

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