Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak - March 13, 2011. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Israel is facing an "earthquake" rattling Middle East regimes as well as the threat of an anti-Israeli diplomatic tsunami, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday.

Addressing a convention organized by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces in New York, Barak said that 2011 has proven fateful for Israel, as it faces "on the one hand an 'historic earthquake' in the Middle East, on the other hand a diplomatic 'tsunami' that is rising against Israel."

"It will culminate in September this year with the intended recognition of a Palestinian state along the '67 lines, followed by a wide effort aimed at de-legitimization of Israel," the defense minister said.

Referring to the threats he considers Israel to be facing, Barak cited "Hamas in Gaza, the Hezbollah in Lebanon," adding that, "in the background, Iran "still presents a major threat to world order."

"Regarding Iran," the defense minister said, "it is essential to shift towards crippling and paralyzing sanctions while simultaneously keeping 'all options on the table.'"

Speaking of the conclusions that should be reached out of Israel's "fateful" decisions, Barak lauded the "advancement toward more openness in the Arab societies," while advising caution of any "uncertainties and threats that such a situation brings."

"Israel is clearly an island of stability," Barak said. "An outpost of the free world values in a tough neighborhood, where there is no mercy for the weak, no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. Thus, we must remain strong."

The defense minister also spoke of the need to "build a strong Israel that strives for peace from a position of strength and self confidence," and culminated by saying that "Israel must nurture and develop its close ties with the U.S., which, for Israel is the major source of securing its qualitative military edge, as well as of political backing."

While Barak admitted that there had been difficulties in peace talks with the Palestinians, "the alternatives have also become much worse."

"Thus, a stronger sense of purpose and urgency is needed in order for Israel to avoid ending up on a 'slippery slope' towards isolation and de-legitimization," the defense minister added.

"Our utmost responsibility is to ensure that if it can be done – it will. If it cannot – it will be clear to the whole world that the other side is responsible," he said, adding: "Time is running out. It is a moment for tough decisions. Actions. Not just words."