Israel being rocked this weekend by revelations from former Defense Minister Ehud Barak that yes, Israel came extremely close to attacking Iran several times during President Obama's first term in office.
Mr. Barak, who also previously served as Israel’s prime minister, said that he and Mr. Netanyahu were ready to attack Iran each year but that in 2010, the military chief of staff said Israel lacked the “operational capability”; in 2011, two key ministers waffled at the last minute; and in 2012, the timing did not work out because of a joint United States-Israel military exercise and visit by the American defense secretary. He noted that the two ministers who balked in 2011, Moshe Yaalon and Yuval Steinitz, “are the most militant about attacking Iran” today.
The interview excerpts were aired by Israel’s Channel 2, which stressed that Mr. Barak had sought to prevent them from being broadcast, but that they had been approved by Israel’s military censor. Reached late Friday by telephone, Mr. Barak confirmed that the recordings were authentic but said he had provided the information on background to the authors, Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor, whose book, “Barak: The Wars of My Life,” came out this week in Hebrew.
“It was not supposed to be published,” Mr. Barak said. “I don’t want to comment on it. I tried to convince them not to broadcast it. But it’s true, it’s my voice. I don’t deny my voice, it can be recognized.”
Mr. Barak was known at the time to be a prime advocate for a unilateral Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, something Washington strongly opposed.
In the weeks since the Obama administration and five other world powers signed a deal with Iran to restrict its nuclear program, Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Yaalon — now defense minister — and Mr. Steinitz have all stressed that Israel retains a military option to stop Iran from making a bomb. But most Israeli experts say a strike would be all but impossible now because of the continuing diplomatic process, and likely far more technically challenging than when it was most seriously considered, in 2012.
In the interviews broadcast Friday, Mr. Barak said “we’d planned to do it” that year. He recalled “demanding” of Leon E. Panetta, then the secretary of defense, to postpone the joint military exercise, and succeeding, but still being unable to find the right moment.
“You ask, you demand that America respect your sovereignty to make a decision that you want to do that, even if America is opposed to that and it is against its interests,” Mr. Barak said. “So you can’t, you yourself, in the opposite direction, try to force America — precisely when it is here carrying out an exercise that’s been scheduled in advance. That’s how it got tied up in 2012.”
In 2011, Mr. Barak said, Mr. Netanyahu told him and Avigdor Lieberman, then the foreign minister, that Mr. Yaalon and Mr. Steinitz were on board with a planned strike. But when military leaders briefed them as part of so-called Forum of Eight top ministers on how complex it would be, both demurred. “You can see, in front of our very eyes, them melting,” he recounted. “You see it in their reactions, their questions, their faces.”
“Had they not changed their minds, that would have created a majority,” Mr. Barak noted, “and then we might have convened the cabinet.”
Each time, cooler heads prevailed, but barely.
I'm not sure why Israel's military censor allowed these conversations to be published other than Israel's military really, really wants to show the world that the ministers running the show are pretty much bonkers, and that Israel's generals don't want anything to do with them. This would be the equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff leaking Defense Department discussions during the Dubya years or something. It's "save us before this happens."
Will Israel's voters do so?
I have no reason to believe they will, not until 2017 at the earliest and Obama is gone.
It's one thing to not be surprised that Israel wanted to bomb Iran once Bibi was voted into office, but it's another thing entirely to have that stance confirmed multiple times.