In Calling for Iran Attack, Netanyahu Stands Alone

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands alone in calling for an attack on Iran, writes Ben Caspit, because Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for reasons of his own, has quietly disappeared from Netanyahu's side.

al-monitor Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during his meeting with Germany's Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, in Jerusalem, Sept. 9, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool.

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us foreign policy, us, romney, obama, iran, benjamin netanyahu, barak

Sep 9, 2012

It's already clear now that [Israeli Defense Minister] Ehud Barak has never had any real intention to go along with [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for an attack on Iran prior to the [upcoming presidential] election in the United States. We have now reached the moment of truth, the moment of decision, the crucial crossroads; and Netanyahu is looking to the right and then, to the left; alas, Ehud [Barak] is nowhere to be seen. He has again turned his back on his partner and disappeared.

On his first visit to Washington [in May 2009] after assuming office as Israeli prime minister in April 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu was apprehensive and on edge. The media reported that an icy welcome was awaiting him in Washington. The banner headlines in the press were screaming: "Yitzhar [Israeli settlement in the West Bank known for its extremist "price tag" policy] or Bushehr [Iranian nuclear power plant]" [alluding to US President Barack Obama's alleged linkage between progress on the Palestinian track and American action on the Iranian nuclear threat]. US President Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, then-White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, were looking forward to seeing Netanyahu more or less the way a Jewish circumciser is waiting to perform the covenant of circumcision ceremony on a week-old newborn.

It was evident to all and sundry that the Americans were about to make it really painful for Netanyahu and that they intended to tame and him and bring him down to earth — swiftly, forcefully and non-elegantly [in reference to the well-known pledge made on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War by then-IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev to knock out the enemy "swiftly, forcefully and elegantly"]. The absence of Mrs. Netanyahu, who that time around did not accompany the Prime Minister on his visit, made it possible for him to act somewhat more freely and invite to his airplane cabin the representatives of the [Israeli] press who came along to cover the visit, including even the above signed(!). "What is it that they are after, what do they want from me?" Netanyahu kept asking whoever he happened to encounter that day. "They want to bring me down," he went on whining, while his alarmed aides were trying to dig up every possible bit of information about the catastrophe that awaited the premier and his entourage in the American capital.

Now the roles have reversed. To Netanyahu's credit, it should be noted that he has triumphed over Obama. He managed to remove the settlement in the territories from the agenda; he killed the political process [concerning the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations]; he looked the American president straight in the eye and caused him to blink first and thereby, to lose interest in the issue. As far as the Israeli right is concerned, Netanyahu has delivered the goods, taking full advantage of the embarrassing blunders of the tyro American president, and there were quite a number of those.

Meanwhile, in Washington, they are becoming increasingly aware that this time around, it's Netanyahu who seeks to bring down Obama. And it's no personal initiative on the part of the prime minister — not at all. After all, it's none other than Netanyahu who conceived [and mastered to perfection] the art of vacillation, retraction and evasion of decision — any decision, under any circumstances (even when it's his own investment portfolio that is under discussion [The PM changed his mind twice recently on revisions to his private investment portfolio, having been accused by the media of using inside information on the Iran issue]), so that you cannot possibly expect him to even dream of toppling Obama.

The war on Obama and on the US Democratic Party has been declared by someone else, with much more nerve than Bibi [Netanyahu], someone by the name of Sheldon Adelson [a Jewish-American business magnate — the largest contributor to the Republican Party, and owner of a right-wing free daily newspaper in Israel]. Netanyahu is but one of the pawns in this war. Another pawn answers to the name of Mitt Romney. They are all together embroiled in a fierce world war waged between two of the world's most prominent superpowers: the United States of America, on one side, and the republic of Sheldonia (led by Adelson), on the other side. There can be only one victor in this war. And the victory is going to be final and decisive. If Sheldonia defeats America, Obama will disappear from the map, along with the Democrats (for four years, at least). Adelson will then rule two states, two peoples and one world, and vice versa.

Barak jumping on the bandwagon

It's already clear now and commonly realized that [Israeli Defense Minister] Ehud Barak has never had any real intention to go along with [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for an attack on Iran prior to the [upcoming presidential] election in the United States. We have now reached the moment of truth, the moment of decision, the crucial crossroads; and Netanyahu is looking to the right and then, to the left; alas, Ehud [Barak] is nowhere to be seen. He has again turned his back on his partner and disappeared. All of a sudden, so the media reports, he no longer believes that it's possible, necessary or feasible to attack Iran before the election in the US.

His conduct calls to mind the fatal training accident at the [Israel Defense Forces (IDF)] Tze’elim base [in the Negev desert in southern Israel] that took place [last] week 20 years ago [on Sept. 5, 1992]. Then, too, Barak [in his capacity as IDF Chief of Staff] conceived and planned a crazy operation that stood no chance of materializing in reality [Operation Bramble Bush, a plan to assassinate Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, which was called off following the fatal accident that occurred during the rehearsal for the operation] and then too he caused immense damage and raised a tremendous uproar, and that time too, it all came to naught (it could not have ended otherwise).

This time around, after taking Bibi by the hand and leading him on a guided tour through any imaginable realm of panic and [the] grotesque, Barak at the very last moment vanished from the scene, leaving behind a puff of stale hot air. Up till then, for close to four years, he was living off Netanyahu's Iranian phobia. But don't worry, he hasn't disappeared for long. Immediately after the US presidential election, slated for November, Barak is certain to resume his antics and carry on where he has left off, and the countdown will start all over again. After all, he needs the padding provided by Netanyahu as a nesting ground, as how else can he keep his job as defense minister?

By the way, there is another version to the story, which has been circulating among Netanyahu's close associates as of late, according to which Barak is now all ready to perform on Netanyahu his classic sting operation, the one he used at the time on [former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert — turning against Netanyahu, stabbing him in the back and splitting from him with the aim of landing an attractive position somewhere in the political center. (Amir Oren [Haaretz newspaper] reported [last] week [Sept. 7] that Barak may be seeking the number two position in a government headed by "Tziporah" [Tzipi Livni  former Kadima leader]). The way Barak's [Independence party] colleagues (in particular Shalom Simhon [Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor & Minister for Minority Affairs] and Orit Noked [Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development]) have been acting with regard to the economic issues constitutes circumstantial evidence to support the rumors concerning Barak's intentions. However, so far, Barak and Bibi are still together.

As commented in this column recently, during Olmert's tenure as premier, the defense establishment found it difficult to persuade its minister [that is, Ehud Barak] to hold even a single discussion on the Iranian issue. The issue did not seem to bother Barak too much at the time. However, once Netanyahu arrived on the scene and was extensively briefed by then-IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on the goings-on in the Iranian arena, his eyes lit up. (It was Bibi's wedding anniversary that day; nevertheless, he was so excited over what he had just heard that he called Sarah [his wife] and told her he would be late, and then summoned Ashkenazi to carry on the briefing the following day.) Barak identified the opportunity (he excels at it) and from that moment on, he became the chief prophet of doom, the major provocateur stirring up strife, the internal combustion engine [so to speak], driving it all, being the cause and effect at one and the same time. He has simply jumped on the Iranian Ayatollahs' bandwagon. Fortunately for him, the subordinate echelons in the defense establishment persistently opposed the adventure, so that his presence in this saga has become especially critical for Netanyahu, for whom Iran is far more than a threat — it is a veritable obsession with him. And all the rest is history.

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