Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu share a worldview. Both enjoy smoking cigars and reading biographies of Winston Churchill. Both consider Israel a Western bastion in the heart of a hostile Muslim world. Both do not trust the Arabs and believe that there is "no partner" on the Palestinian side. And both consider the Iranian nuclear program a major threat to Israel and support a military operation against it.
The activist view against Iran unites Barak and Netanyahu and gives sense to their shared place in the country's leadership. Bolstered by the incoming chief of staff, Yoav Galant, who is considered a supporter of their position, the prime minister and defense minister will seek to foil the Iranian nuclear program in their remaining time in office. Their move to offload the Labor ministers who opposed Barak sought to keep Barak in his defense minister's chair. Concerns that Barak may be forced to resign in April because of Labor's infighting have been lifted.
Without Barak by his side, Netanyahu would find it hard to advance aggressive moves on the Iranian front. Netanyahu has no military record that grants him supreme defense authority, as Ariel Sharon had. Only Barak, with his ranks and medals, his seniority as a former prime minister, can give Netanyahu this kind of backing.
Likud's senior defense figure, former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, is considered a moderate on the Iranian issue, as is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who more than anyone symbolizes the right in the right-wing government. Netanyahu cannot overcome their opposition without the defense minister's definitive analyses, accompanied by his circular hand motions.
The press conference of former Mossad chief Meir Dagan undermined the view of Barak and Netanyahu: If the timetable for an Iranian bomb has been pushed back to 2015, there is no need to send the bombers to Natanz this year. But they have not given in. Barak's political-security chief at the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, was quick to warn that the Iranian timetable is even shorter, and Dagan took back some of his statements yesterday at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, apparently under pressure by the prime minister.
Netanyahu and Barak have hinted over the past two weeks that Israel is on the verge of a surprising diplomatic move. In his address to foreign reporters, Netanyahu promised that in 2011 "the truth will emerge" about who really wants peace in the region.
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