Defense Minister Ehud Barak took up his post about four years ago. During his term, Israel has taken action against the Syrian nuclear facility and embarked on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. After Benjamin Netanyahu formed his government, which Barak joined despite his promises to the voters of the Labor Party, which he led at the time, the Netanyahu-Barak duo began work on a possible attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Now Barak says, contrary to the opinion of defense experts, Israel has less than a year to act.
The international response indicates that the sword Barak is polishing is double-edged. If once we could believe in Israeli-American military cooperation on the matter and shared goals at the highest level, Barak's campaign has opened a substantial gap between the two countries' leaders.
Particularly prominent are the tense relations between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, whose correct and negative opinion of the prime minister was expressed in a remark to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But there are also clear differences between Barak's position and that of the last two U.S. secretaries of defense, Robert Gates and now Leon Panetta.
Panetta never tires of saying that the Iranian nuclear program is very worrisome and that Obama will not come to terms with it. But in the same breath and even more forcefully he makes clear that a military attack, as opposed to economic sanctions, would undermine regional stability and harm the economy. The winter in the United States, when the people's well-being depends on fuel for heating and transportation, is not a convenient time for a strike against an oil superpower and for that country's response against other Persian Gulf oil producers.
The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which condemned Iran, couldn't impel Russia and China to take energetic action against the Islamic Republic. The Iranians can take heart: They are stronger after Barak's campaign of words. The defense minister's verbosity has moved the focus from Iran to Israel and is damaging Israeli interests.