In Bashing Netanyahu, Ehud Barak Dropped a Bombshell That Should Be Looked Into

In his allusion to a 'wall,' the former defense minister might mean Israel's efforts to destroy Hamas tunnels. Or maybe Israel's closer ties with Russia and China. He needs to tell more.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak during a statement to the press in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak during a statement to the press in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012.Credit: AFP
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

After two months of silence, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has launched another attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an earlier speech (at the Herzliya Conference), Barak warned that Netanyahu was acting to destroy Zionism and called for a popular protest that would lead to elections and the toppling of the government.

Barak, also a former defense minister, was immediately declared by the media Israel’s real opposition leader.

This time Barak focused his offense on defense issues. He slammed the military aid agreement about to be signed with the United States. He said the final sum, $3.8 billion annually over 10 years, was significantly lower than what Netanyahu could have won if he had signed the deal a year ago shortly after the nuclear agreement between Iran and the powers.

But while few are as familiar as Barak with the covert, complex defense relations between Israel and the Americans, this assertion has been repeatedly voiced in recent months. Netanyahu, who intends to portray the agreement as the most generous Israel has ever obtained, knew such criticism was expected.

Still, Barak accused Netanyahu of “another incident” that reflected a “worrying mix of an inability to judge deep security interests” alongside a failure to fully appreciate “the potential of cooperation with the United States.”

Ehud Barak speaking at the Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

This, Barak said, together with “careless operational behavior” led to “most worrisome exposure of Israel to a major security challenge.” He said he could not elaborate but added: “This is no way to build a wall or protect national security.”

It sounds like code that only a few understand. Presumably, Netanyahu knows what his former defense minister means, though his aides said they checked and didn’t know which “security incident” Barak was referring to.

One possibility is that Barak was referring to a disagreement on technological investments and that the choice of the word “wall” wasn’t altogether arbitrary. Was Barak talking about the underground-wall project to block Hamas’ tunnels from Gaza? Or maybe he was hinting that Israel had to buy more missiles to intercept rockets preparations that go hand in hand with the wall project?

Or was Barak talking about Netanyahu’s ongoing strategic choices such as the tightening of ties with Russia and China, two of Washington’s biggest rivals? When the former prime minister and defense minister throws such a bombshell, it requires clarification, regardless of the bad blood between Netanyahu and Barak.

If the head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Likud’s Avi Dichter, calls Barak to address the intelligence subcommittee, Barak will come. It seems this step is now called for.

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