Barak, Mofaz - Michal Fattal - March 2012
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, with the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Shaul Mofaz, yesterday. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on Israel yesterday to take into account the U.S. election campaign, hinting that it would be unwise to launch an attack on Iran without American support.

"Security relations and strategic collaboration between the United States and Israel have reached the highest level in the history of ties between the two countries," Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"This fact has a clear, immediate impact on Israeli security, and on the future of the country's standing in the international community."

Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima ) said Barak was "acting irresponsibly, standing on the media stage," but Barak disagreed.

According to the defense minister, "Israel should increase its sensitivity, awareness and attentiveness to requirements based on the reality in the United States and adopt a policy that strengthens the special relationship between the two countries."

Barak said "many experts around the world believe that refraining from action would mean a nuclear Iran, and that dealing with a nuclear Iran would be more dangerous, and danger literally means more bloodshed."

An Iran with a nuclear-weapons capability must not arise, and Israel is insisting on this point in talks with its friends, Barak said.

"This is what our allies and we ourselves are saying. And we mean what we say," he said. "The world, including the current U.S. government, understands and accepts the fact that Israel sees the threat somewhat differently, and that in the end Israel is responsible for reaching decisions pertaining to its future, security and fate."

Mofaz, for his part, told Barak to "stop the prattle on the Iranian issue; you and the prime minister are acting irresponsibly, standing on the media stage." According to Mofaz, Mossad chiefs past and present take issue with Barak's views. "Because of what you've said, newspapers are outlining the routes the [attack] planes would take," Mofaz said.

Barak also discussed the uprising in Syria, including the fighting in Damascus yesterday. "The Assad regime is in a continual state of weakening and decline, and the events this morning in Damascus prove that," he said.

"The lack of a clear outcome increases losses on both sides, and the regime is showing extreme cruelty toward the Syrian people. All this is happening in front of the cameras, yet it remains hard to spot an end point and a timetable for the morning after," he added.

"We are monitoring the events in Syria, with an eye on any efforts to transfer weapons that would alter the balance. And we reserve the right to defend Israel's security interests. Events in Syria increase the uncertainty and the need to prepare for any scenario."

Barak said the Syrian regime was trying to use Russia as "a barrier" against steps by the international community.

He said "recently we have witnessed efforts made by Hezbollah to launch attacks on Israeli targets overseas, and these have been thwarted." Regarding Israel's recent air strikes and Islamic Jihad's rocket attacks, Barak said Israel had strengthened its deterrent capacity against groups in the Gaza Strip.

"We're talking about a round of fighting that ended favorably for Israel due to correct, appropriate actions by the IDF and the Shin Bet [security service]."

Barak said Islamic Jihad "took a devastating blow, both in terms of the strikes against its operatives and the damage to its infrastructure."

Out of desperation, Islamic Jihad fired rockets at Israeli civilians, but the attacks were thwarted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system, Barak said. He said Iron Dome's success improved the political leaders' room to maneuver.

Barak warned that terror organizations in Gaza would continue to try to carry out attacks on Israel; for example, by attempting to kidnap soldiers or civilians.