Defense Minister Barak – After Years of Saber-Rattling on Iran Nuclear Issue – Quits Politics

Less than a week after the end (for now) of the latest round of bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas faction in Gaza, Israel’s defense minister has suddenly announced that he is ending his political career.

Barak’s official photo while prime minister

Ehud Barak, who is 70 years old, said he is willing to continue as defense minister until a new cabinet is installed after the January 22 election. He has been leading his own, very small political party but was not expected to win many or any seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).

As leader of the Labor Party he was prime minister in 2000, when Israel and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat came very close to a peace agreement mediated by President Bill Clinton.   As defense minister in recent years, he was perhaps the leading voice constantly warning that Israel might bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.

As the election approached and Barak put distance between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Barak left most of the saber-rattling to Netanyahu — including the prime minister’s famous speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this past September.  Barak seemed no longer to favor an attack on Iran, at least not at this time.

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Many officials in Barack Obama’s administration, and notably the President himself, seemed to find Ehud Barak much easier to deal with than Netanyahu.  Obama has hinted that he has had private talks with Barak, and — with the prestige of being a peace-making former prime minister as well as Israel’s most decorated soldier — Ehud Barak was apparently able to explain Israel’s thinking (regarding Iran) to the American President.

Barak was a commando in the Israeli army’s elite unit, Sayeret Matkal. Here is an excerpt from our book which mentions him.  This is from Chapter 10, “More than Vengeance,” which is mostly about the counter-PLO campaign of shootings and bombings by the Mossad after Israeli athletes were massacred at the Munich Olympics in 1972:

In April 1973, the PLO attacked an Israeli civilian plane in Nicosia, Cyprus, and the nearby home of the Israeli ambassador.

The Jewish state seemed to be retaliating the very next night – although the timing was probably pure coincidence, as this was a major operation on territory much more treacherous than Rome or Paris.  The Israelis would now take the battle to PLO headquarters in Lebanon, an enemy country.  They had concluded that liquidating Palestinian operatives and coordinators in Europe was not sufficient.  Leading the way into the lion’s den, this time, would be army commandos.  The  Mossad would play a support role.

The assassins were members of  Sayeret Matkal, wearing civilian clothes.  At least one of them, the future prime minister Ehud Barak, wore a wig and was dressed as a woman.  In the middle of bustling Beirut, using vehicles and routes provided by the Mossad, the well-trained soldiers killed two organizers of PLO violence in their apartments and also shot dead the group’s spokesman.  The intelligence about where they lived, and that they would be home, was perfect.  So was the entry and exit plan by way of a Lebanese beach.

After a few years, Israel did not bother to deny this invasion of a neighboring country, and its code name Aviv Ne’urim (Spring of Youth) appears on official Israeli military websites as a notable and laudable event.

When Palestinian terrorists and activists were liquidated, relatives of dead Israelis were informed that a blow had been struck in tribute to their loved ones.  The families, however, generally derived little joy from the fact that Arabs also had fatherless children now attending funerals.


November 26, 2012

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