'Self-delusion': Former PM Barak Slams Bennett and Netanyahu Over Iran

In a Ynet op-ed, Barak says that while the 2015 nuclear deal was bad, Israel missed a golden opportunity through its policy's 'promiscuous negligence' to ramp up its independent actions against Iran

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Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at a conference in Jaffa earlier this month.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at a conference in Jaffa earlier this month.Credit: Hadas Parush

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett must renounce the “promiscuous negligence and dangerous self-delusion” that characterized Israeli policy toward Iran under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote on the Ynet news site on Sunday, in a scathing op-ed criticizing the current and previous governments’ approach to the nuclear issue.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak took aim at former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Iran policy in a scathing op-ed on Sunday, saying that Netanyahu spurred Iran toward accelerated nuclear development by pressuring the United States to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

While a nuclear Iran “does not pose an existential threat to Israel in the foreseeable future,” it is still a change for the worst for Israel's strategic situation, which can be directly linked to Netanyahu’s belligerent approach in recent years, Barak wrote. 

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, “was indeed bad,” he wrote, but Netanyahu's “futile clash” with then-U.S. President Barack Obama led Israel to miss the opportunity to ramp up its ability to engage in independent action against the Islamic Republic.

“Preparing a military option to actually postpone the nuclear program requires several years and massive U.S. assistance,” he wrote. And rather than pushing back Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability, Netanyahu actually helped accelerate Iran’s race to a nuclear capability by pressuring Obama’s successor Donald Trump into leaving the deal in 2018.

Bennett, he wrote, was “right in his complaint about the ‘inconceivable gap between rhetoric and (lack of) actions’” that characterized the previous administration, adding that Israel now finds itself in a “new reality that requires a sober assessment of the situation, decisions and actions and not hollow public threats."

Bennett has ramped up his rhetoric regarding Iran in recent days, stating that Tehran “must start paying a price for its violations” and declaring that Israel “Israel won't be bound” by any future deal.

In a phone call last week, Bennett urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to immediately terminate talks in Vienna between Iran and world powers amid Tehran's ongoing nuclear violations.

Israeli officials have rebuked the United States' handling of the Iran nuclear talks, with one saying Washington was “confused” in their expectation that Tehran would not harden its position on returning to compliance with the terms of the agreement.

Mossad chief David Barnea promised Thursday that Israel will do "whatever it takes" to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon while Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman, who is commander of the Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate, and is tasked with planning Israeli strategy vis-a-vis Iran, told a Bahraini newspaper this October that if a new deal cannot be reached, Israel “must be prepared for other scenarios.”

In his op-ed, Barak contended that there is “no chance” of “persuading the United States, which is preoccupied with countering Chinese influence in Asia, to carry out an attack on the Iranian nuclear program in the near future in order to postpone its achievement of its nuclear ambitions."

What Israel must do is coordinate with the United States and find ways to achieve common goals on Iran as a threshold state, "rather than public disputes and exchanges of accusations with the government, which are of no practical use and are perceived in the world as hollow gestures.”

He continued: “At this stage, the main risk in Iran's possible arrival in a ‘threshold state’ is not that in the foreseeable future Israel will face the risk of an Iranian bomb being dropped on it. The real risk is an irreversible collapse of the nuclear proliferation regime." Barak added that if Iran becomes a nuclear state, countries like Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will also strive to attain nuclear capabilities.

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