Is Israel's Barak breaking with Netanyahu over Iran?
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who until now was a steadfast ally of Netanyahu's push for military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, appears to be carving out a new position, though he is denying it.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to ramp up pressure on Iran’s nuclear program with hints he might order a unilateral attack on Iran, he's been staunchly supported by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.Skip to next paragraph
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Lately, there have been cracks emerging in that support.
Amid this week’s flare-up between Mr. Netanyahu and President Barack Obama over how to confront Iran, the Israeli defense minister appeared to break ranks. In a press statement, he criticized the prime minister for his public scolding of the White House, saying “we must not forget that the U.S. is Israel’s main ally’’ and that differences should be resolved behind closed doors.
Observers believe those remarks have wider significance: After months of publicly and privately expressing support for an aggressive posture towards Iran, Mr. Barak seems to have joined those opposing an attack any time soon. With much of Israel’s military establishment and the US opposed to a strike, a Barak defection would isolate the Israeli prime minister as the lone proponent of military action at the upper reaches of either country.
“[Barak] came to recognize that without America you can’t do a thing like attack an Iranian nuclear site,” said Shimon Shiffer, a veteran columnist at the daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot. “He is not with Netanyahu at this stage. Their alliance is over.”
Perhaps. But Barak himself is denying major differences. "I always see eye to eye [with Netanyahu]. We see a similar threat," he told Israel's Globes newspaper, according to Haaretz. "It is extremely important that when Israel says it cannot allow Iran to attain nuclear capability and that all options are on the table that it means it," he said.
He also downplayed public differences between the US and Israel over Iran. "I'm saying loud and clear: there is something wrong with the discourse taking place here. The descriptions of the crisis and the differences between us and the Americans are extremely exaggerated."