Archive for the ‘Ehud Barak’ Category


This article was published at Alternet.

The former head of Israel’s General Security Service, commonly known as the Shin Bet, has caused quite a stir with an interview that roasts Prime Minister Benjamin

Former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin

Former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin

Netanyahu alive. Yuval Diskin paints a disturbing picture of Netanyahu as a leader who, far more than most, is motivated by personal political gain rather than by strategy. Cynically, and one might even say appropriately, most of us routinely ascribe such motives to most politicians, but Diskin’s point is that Netanyahu leans much more toward this motivation than most.

When one considers the amount of power an Israeli Prime Minister holds, and the impact Israeli actions have on world events, having someone like the man Diskin describes in that office is alarming even while it explains much about why, even for Middle East affairs, the current status quo is so bleak. But here in the United States, it should also give us pause as we consider who this man is that our Congress, led by the Israel Lobby, is so enthralled with.

Diskin describes all the other Prime Ministers he worked under since Menachem Begin as ultimately being driven by their view of Israel’s best interests. He does not suggest they were immune to personal interest, but that when it came to the really crucial security decisions, it was not their primary motivation. But Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak, are different, says Diskin: “Unfortunately the feeling that I have, and that many senior security officials have, is that when we talk about Netanyahu and Barak, that with them the personal, opportunistic and current interests, are the thing that take precedence over anything else.  And I emphasize that I am reflecting here something that not only I feel, but also many of the colleagues at my level with whom I spoke.” Whether Diskin’s assessment of historical Israeli leadership is on target, the fact remains that he obviously sees a huge difference in the extent to which personal gain motivates the current government’s top decision-makers. (more…)

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Ok, maybe not forever, but in this week’s piece at Souciant, I examine Bibi’s strategies in his latest political shenanigans. His goal is the same as always, to strengthen his position and hold on to the Prime Minister’s office as long as possible. But it is troubling that so many factors are lining up to enable to do just that for a long time…

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I’m not convinced that this is the end of the story by any means, but it does seem that the tide has turned sharply against Bibi’s and Barak’s efforts to either unilaterally attack Iran or use the threat of such to blackmail the US into doing it for them. My report for Inter Press Service.

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My piece in Souciant this week understandably has generated some questions. The sort of thing in that piece is precisely the kind of thinking I often try to counter. And, under the current circumstances, where whatever the goals and motivations, Netanyahu and Barak are obviously trying to stir up fear and pressure through the media, it is a level head that is called for. It doesn’t help that the article came out around the same time as another blogger was embroiled in controversy, and opened to questions of having been manipulated by Israel’s hasbara efforts, over an obviously bogus document he presented as an Israeli plan for an attack.

“Come, Ehud, sit and we’ll figure out how to get this done…”

Of course, I strongly considered the idea that I was falling victim to some sort of hasbara scheme. It’s possible that’s just what this was, though I don’t think so. Of course, if I thought so, we wouldn’t have this discussion in the first place, would we?

I don’t buy what my source told me whole cloth, in any case. As I stated repeatedly in the piece, I still don’t think Israel is going to attack Iran unilaterally. But where I was once 95% sure of that, now I’d say I’m 85% sure, because I do give some weight to what I was told. So why is that?

A reasonable question. Obviously, since I remain 85% sure, as I said numerous times in the piece, that the attack will not come off, I remain dubious. On the other hand, it did cause me to doubt my assessment more than I have in the past, and this is the case for a number of reasons.

1. The Source. Although I don’t know who the inside source is on this, the person I got it from is an someone I’ve known for a decade and who I trust very much. I also know, first-hand, that this person has genuine inside sources in the Israeli governmental and military establishment, and they have proven themselves sound to me numerous times over the years. Thus, even though the view I presented in my piece doesn’t line up well with my thinking, and I have serious questions about it, I can’t dismiss it out of hand. (more…)

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This week at Souciant, I got a different view from a well-placed source on the potential of an Israeli attack on Iran. I haven’t changed my view–I don’t think it will happen. But I still thought it sufficiently important to explore what this source told me, even if it didn’t sway me to his view. You might find it interesting…

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This article originally appeared at LobeLog, which is a treasure trove of valuable foreign policy analysis. I hope you will check the site out, I’m sure you’ll find it worth your while. 

Headlines today featured news of a spike in oil prices based on fears of an Israeli strike on Iran. That fear is based on last week’s major uptick in Israeli rhetoric — mostly from Defense Minister Ehud Barak — which was geared toward goading the United States into military action against Iran. While tension has indeed risen, Israel’s tactics could backfire.

Netanyahu and Barak

The most recent surge of tension began with an“anonymous” leak, widely believed to have come from Barak, stating that the US had a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that showed Iran to be a greater threat than previously believed. Barak then told Israeli Radio that there was a new report, perhaps not a NIE, which brought the US assessment closer to “ours.”

The “ours” Barak referred to was that of himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose assessment differs not only from the Obama Administration’s, but also from Israel’s own military and intelligence establishment. Netanyahu and Barak’s take also differs from Israeli public opinion about the threat Iran poses. In a poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 10 and announced earlier today (Hebrew only), only 23% of Israelis support a strike on Iran, while 46% oppose it.

But Netanyahu and Barak had indeed attempted to sway public opinion. The day after Barak’s statements, Israeli headlines were devoted to a possible strike on Iran. Netanyahu also proceeded to rekindle Holocaust fears and another article appeared in the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, with an anonymous “decision maker” — almost certainly Barak again — warning about the unspeakable consequences of a nuclear Iran and urging action.

It’s no surprise that markets are reacting with fear to all of this, but what can we make of recent events with a more sober eye? For one, Netanyahu and Barak are growing more concerned about the potential for an attack on Iran — something they want very badly. They are also now playing a much higher-stakes political game in order to get Iran attacked.

As Ha’aretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn points out, Netanyahu and Barak have been screaming hysterically about Iran while other world leaders haven’t been all that concerned about their complaints. Israeli rhetoric has been escalating steadily for years now, but there are good reasons to believe that there will not be an Israeli attack. First, there is serious internal opposition. Second, Israel isn’t likely to strike Iran because it doesn’t have, by itself, the capacity to destroy or substantially set back the Iranian nuclear program. In other words, Israel can’t make the minimal gains required to justify the risks and consequences of taking on Iran alone. (more…)

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Over at Inter Press Service  I report on Ehud Barak’s loose talk about the US’ intelligence assessment of Iran. The question I raise is when Barak says this rumored NIE update brings the US position “closer to ours,” what Israeli position is he referring to? The military and intel assessments of both the US and Israel have largely been in agreement all along. Only Bibi and Barak have been disagreeing…

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