Liberman: Barak revealed ‘state secrets’ on Iran
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Liberman: Barak revealed ‘state secrets’ on Iran

Former foreign minister says ex-defense minister’s statements on plans to strike nuclear facilities strengthen Tehran

Then-defense minister Ehud Barak (holding pen) looks at then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman (to his right) at a cabinet meeting led by then-premier Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)
Then-defense minister Ehud Barak (holding pen) looks at then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman (to his right) at a cabinet meeting led by then-premier Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)

Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday accused erstwhile defense minister Ehud Barak of exposing state secrets, after the latter detailed on tape three occasions between 2010 and 2012 when Israel was ostensibly poised to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Liberman told Army Radio that he was “more than surprised” at Barak, and said statements such as those given by the former minister would ultimately strengthen Iran.

“I think that when moves and discussions that should have been closely guarded state secrets are discussed by the press, it relays that you are a talker, that you aren’t serious, that you’re unreliable,” he said.

“That is why, among other reasons, Iran is being coddled by the international community, and we have been backed into a corner… These things should only have been discussed in closed forums.”

Asked whether he believed Barak was guilty of revealing state secrets, Liberman responded that he had “no doubt” that was the case.

Channel 2, which broadcast the bombshell recordings of Barak on Friday night, said Saturday that “anger” at the former defense minister 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.

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, on October 26, 2010. (AP/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)
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, on October 26, 2010. (AP/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)

In the tapes, whose broadcast Barak was said to have tried to prevent, he claims that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran in 2010, but that then-IDF 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.

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 airstrikes 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.

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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