Pre-election Politics: Netanyahu and Barak disunite on Iran — A Top Minister Unveils Rift

As soon as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would have early elections — and today is was confirmed that the country will vote on Tuesday, January 22 — his fragile coalition government showed a multitude of fracture lines.

That is, perhaps, no surprise — as the cabinet is made up of several parties, and each one would like to win more seats in the Knesset so it can increase its influence on government policymaking.

Ehud Barak, when prime minister in 2000

Yet Bibi Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had been — on the Iran nuclear issue — like twins, rattling their twin sabers and warning for months that Israel might have to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities at any moment.  We even called them the B&B Twins.

Now, even without a King Solomon wielding a knife, the twins are divided.  The strategic affairs minister, Moshe (“Boogie”) Yaalon, is trying to be Solomon — if not in the sense of monarchic wisdom, then definitely taking the role of knife wielder.  Yaalon is suggesting that Barak misled Netanyahu and now has double-crossed him, as Barak allegedly is behaving as though he never seriously favored a military option against Iran.

Boogie Yaalon, former top general

Yaalon suggests that Ehud Barak is trying to impress voters by posing as a moderate — as he leads a new party that either will win some parliamentary seats in January or will totally flop.  Yaalon, generally considered very close to Netanyahu, also suggests that Barak is working hard to cultivate friends in the United States.

Americans, especially American Jews, do contribute money to Israeli election campaigns.  No one has explained Barak’s visit to Chicago last month, said to have included a visit with the mayor.  Rahm Emanuel just happens to be of Israeli parentage and is a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama.  Somewhere in there are some interesting connections that seem to have annoyed men high up in Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Obama, after all, has been trying to restrain Israel from even considering military action against Iran anytime soon.  If Ehud Barak looks like he is taking America’s side on this, then hard-liners in Israel will indeed accuse Barak of weakening Israel’s position in its tense stand-off with Iran.

October 14, 2012

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