Former Defense Minister Barak: Israel Must View War as Last Resort

Ehud Barak joins former IDF chief of staff Gabi Asheknazi at launching of book covering the details of Israel's withdraw from Lebanon in 2000.

Ehud Barak greets Gabi Ashkenazi at a reception launching Amos Gilboa's book "Early Dawn" on March 16, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

Former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that the government must make sure Israel goes to war only when there is no other choice.

In what was seen as criticism of the current leadership, Barak said "the leadership must ensure wars happen only when there's no choice, not when the blood is boiling or for chances to make Churchillian speeches."

"If we adopt this perhaps we'll have fewer wars and less of the dynamics that wars bring," he said, speaking at a reception for launching Amos Gilboa's book "Early Dawn," about the IDF's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000.

Referring to the kind of leadership Israel needs, Barak said "a leader needs a compass, not a weathercock."

Speaking about Hezbollah's strengthening since the IDF left Lebanon, Barak said "Hezbollah learned and became more advanced as a result of our stay in Lebanon, not of our departure. Every confrontation (with the IDF) accelerates the organization's development."

Barak said one of the main reasons Hezbollah is not interested in clashing with Israel is that in five of the past 10 years there was a possibility that Israel would attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

"The Iranians demanded Hezbollah not waste this card," Barak said.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who also attended the event, said the army didn't like the idea of leaving Lebanon without an agreement, but carried it out.

He criticized Israel's treatment of South Lebanese Army members who found shelter in Israel after the withdrawal. "One cannot give a high grade to the way we handled them after they entered Israel. We should have prevented such spectacles," he said.

The book "Early Dawn" is based on an intelligence study surveying what took place behind the scenes in the months ahead of the army's leaving Lebanon.

This was the first time that Barak and Ashkenazi met and shook hands after years of bad blood and mutual accusations following the Harpaz affair. The two chatted and joked with each other. Ashkenazi spoke of the tension between the ministers and the military top brass and said "the more we talk the simpler it will be to understand where there are disagreements and carry out decisions better."