Defense Minister Ehud Barak is opposed to attacking Iran in the two upcoming months before the U.S. presidential elections. And in anticipation of Knesset elections in Israel, he does not exclude the possibility of joining forces with Tzipi Livni, the former Kadima leader, and appearing as No. 2 on her list.
These deductions - which Barak has not permitted to be published in his name and which are contrary to the generally-accepted notions about him - are not drawn from the spirit of the statements he has made recently. Indeed, they are so surprising that one needs to examine whether the recording machine in the defense minister's office hasn't, once again, stopped working. Nevertheless, they are in keeping with common sense.
Barak is not a person who can be held captive to his declared positions. He changes them after assessing them anew. Therefore, any statement - even if it is the opposite of a previous one - is true only for that exact minute. And it is possible that it needs to be updated between the moment it was uttered and the moment it is printed.
Barak is not devoid of faults. He is a master at making declarations which, to the superficial listener, sound decisive, but which are worth teaching to any insurance agent as a shining example of how to get a client to sign on the fine print. There are always escape clauses, warning comments, conditions, asterisks and hash marks to the declaration. In the days when he was a suitor, he would surely have been cleared if he had been sued for breaking marriage promises.
His declarations are broad, but the fine points hidden within them can change their meaning entirely if he so wishes. With these reservations in mind, we can return to his new positions, against an attack now and in favor of Livni. He has not reneged on his original desire to attack the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. From that point of view, his consistency is to his detriment. Every year since 2010 has been declared the "decisive" year - it's now or never. The year 2010 passed and then 2011, but no disaster occurred.
On the contrary: Had Israel acted in 2010 and held back Iran's nuclearization by two years, Tehran would now be closer to nuclear weapons and in conditions that would be worse for Israel. Contrary to the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - and this differentiation and separation are important to Barak - Barak's stand on the Iran issue is not absolute. He recognizes the wisdom in the claims of those who differ from him, even though he would not sign on their opposite conclusions.
Therefore the operational question remains: Should American President Barack Obama's wishes be ignored and an attack be launched before November 6? Barak's latest answer: No. Barak wishes to attack soon, but not in that context. Soon, because of the balance of power between the nuclearizing/defending forces vis a vis the attacker (which is also defending itself against Hezbollah and Hamas ), plus the time of year and the weather. But not in the political context of the image of deliberately harming Obama and assisting Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the preferred second cousin of "Uncle" Sheldon (Adelson ).
The apparent inability on the part of Netanyahu to pass the state budget could lead to early national elections here. In anticipation of this, Barak - between reconciling himself to not having an assured spot on the Likud list and showing signs that there is an alternative - is praising Livni generously. She is no longer the "Tzipora" who is not fit for leadership that she was in his eyes during past elections. He publicly declared this on the day she left the Knesset, but the message did not get across, so he repeated it last week in a played-down but clear fashion.
Livni will arrange her list as she wishes. If she agrees to present Barak as a candidate for defense minister in her government, this will be a challenge to inexperienced competitors from the center parties, in the political and defense spheres, and perhaps even to Netanyahu - to whose party Barak can defect on the day after elections.
There are a few obstacles along the Barak-Livni path, including their mutual acquaintance Haim Ramon. But as the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat liked to say, "Where there is a will, there is a way." At the moment it is possible that the party with so little history, Atzmaut, is on its way to the lap of the Livni list, more quickly than Barak's vision of arming on the way to Iran.
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