Iran Is Barak's Last Line of Defense

Is the reason Barak's fear that, with his poor excuse for a party, he will remain outside the government if the elections are moved up, and - worst of all, as far as he's concerned - he will lose the defense portfolio?

After many years when it was absolutely forbidden to mention the word "nuclear" here, the heavens have opened and our chatter is flooding the world. The person causing this flood is mainly Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the very last person who should be raising the subject in every speech and interview, and wherever he sees a microphone.

In an interview with CNN, he said Iran has fewer than nine months until it produces a nuclear weapon, adding that soon we will reach a situation where nobody will be able to do anything practical about it. In a reply to the interviewer's question as to whether it's possible that Israel will attack Iran, Barak responded that he didn't think it was a subject to be discussed in public. As though the CNN microphone is a secret device.

In an interview with PBS in New York, Barak said that, were he an Iranian leader, he would probably develop nuclear weapons too. A strange statement from an Israeli defense minister, but not a new one. When he served as chairman of the Labor Party, in March 1998 he said in a television interview that if he were a young Palestinian, he would join one of the terrorist organizations.

After the fact, what he wanted to say is that he understands the Palestinians who aspire to a state of their own. Whereas it's really not clear what there is to understand about Iran. In spite of the threats, the nuclear weapons are not specifically designed to destroy Israel, but at most to strengthen its power in the Islamic region and the Gulf states - a neighborhood with nuclear powers on its borders. Israel is no threat to Iran. The fact is that, although according to foreign sources Israel has nuclear capability, Arab countries and terrorist movements have not refrained from attacking it.

Recently retired Mossad chief Meir Dagan said that Israel should go to war only when a knife is at its throat and is already cutting into the live flesh, but for now we're not there. His words indicated that the dangers threatening Israel are the missiles, mortars and Grads whose ranges are steadily increasing, and it's only a matter of time until they reach Tel Aviv. There is no peace and quiet for residents of the south, and an attack by us against Iran before they complete the bomb would turn the entire country into a target for Iranian Shahab missiles. The Iranian nuclear threat is worldwide and we should leave it to be handled by the superpowers.

Israel's shaky status in the world at present stems from the diplomatic failure surrounding the peace treaty, but at the moment there is no alternative government. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak know that, but of the two it's Barak who is more concerned. The two of them have created close ties. Some say they speak on the phone four to five times a day. Barak's many trips, meetings and interviews are coordinated with Bibi Netanyahu, with the goal being White House consent to Israeli action against Iran.

Barak has no parliamentary or party backing. It's clear that without Bibi he has no political base. His Atzmaut party will disappear. That means he can rely only on Netanyahu. Without him there is no campaign in Iran and no political future for Barak.

Our chattering is giving Iran the justification and incentive to become a nuclear state. Iran well remembers the bombing of the Iraqi Osirak reactor. Iraq took revenge on Israel in the Gulf War, with 39 measly Scuds that caused mainly panic and no damage. Iran learned the lesson and scattered its reactors, but worst of all is that it organized its lethal retaliation in advance - into the very heart of Israel. U.S. President Barack Obama is right to warn Bibi and Barak not even to dream about an attack against Iran, and to leave it to the superpowers.

Barak, who is dependent on Netanyahu, is the one dragging the prime minister into activity and unprecedented dangers. Is it possible that his unparalleled analytical mind has faded? Or is the reason Barak's fear that, with his poor excuse for a party, he will remain outside the government in case the elections are moved up, and - worst of all, as far as he's concerned - he will lose the defense portfolio?

Barak is fighting for his political life by creating a feeling that "Defense is me." Or "Apres moi le deluge." But when we see what is happening around us - where the riots in Egypt and Syria, and the Hamas connection with the Palestinian Authority, are likely to lead - doesn't that obligate us to adopt an initiative for an agreement with the Palestinians without delay, instead of attacking Iran?

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