Barak, Lieberman to Skip U.S. Forum to Avoid Public Debate on Iran, Sources Say

Officials in Jerusalem say Netanyahu asked Defense Minister and Foreign Minister not to give speeches on the Iranian nuclear issue at the Saban Forum in order to keep a ‘low profile.’

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to cancel their participation in a Washington conference on Israeli-U.S. ties in order to avoid a public debate on the Iranian nuclear issue, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said Wednesday.

Barak and Lieberman were due to attend the Saban Forum, which takes place every December in Washington D.C. and includes senior U.S. government officials and Israeli Knesset members and senior officials. This year, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are due to give speeches. On the Israeli side, Lieberman and Barak were due to speak.

Barak and Lieberman - Amit Shavi
Amit Shavi

According to sources in Jerusalem, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned to Barak and Lieberman asked them not to give speeches on Iran, which is one of the main subjects of the conference, due to the current international sensitivity of the issue and Israel’s desire to keep a “low profile” on the matter in order to avoid harming efforts to impose further sanctions on Iran.

According to other sources, Lieberman and Barak were asked to cancel their participation in the event in order to avoid a public debate on the Iranian issue with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi, who are publicly opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran.

Barak decided to cancel his participation following Netanyahu’s request, sources said. Lieberman is also expected to cancel his participation in the conference and make an announcement in the coming days.

Barak’s office confirmed that he had canceled his participation in the Saban Forum, but claimed the reason was simply due to scheduling. Lieberman’s office refused to comment.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: למה ביטלו ברק וליברמן את נאומיהם בוושינגטון