Saturday, January 28, 2012

Will Israel Attack Iran?

By RONEN BERGMAN, January 25, 2012, The NY Times

As the Sabbath evening approached on Jan. 13,Ehud Barak paced the wide living-room floor of his home high above a street innorth Tel Aviv, its walls lined with thousands of books on subjects rangingfrom philosophy and poetry to military strategy. Barak, the Israeli defenseminister, is the most decorated soldier in the country’s history and one of itsmost experienced and controversial politicians. He has served as chief of thegeneral staff for the Israel Defense Forces, interior minister, foreignminister and prime minister. He now faces, along with Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu and 12 other members of Israel’s inner security cabinet, the mostimportant decision of his life — whether to launch a pre-emptive attack againstIran. We met in the late afternoon, and our conversation — the first of severalover the next week — lasted for two and a half hours, long past nightfall.“This is not about some abstract concept,” Barak said as he gazed out at thelights of Tel Aviv, “but a genuine concern. The Iranians are, after all, anation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel offthe map.”

When I mentioned to Barak the opinion voicedby the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the former chief of staff GabiAshkenazi — that the Iranian threat was not as imminent as he and Netanyahuhave suggested and that a military strike would be catastrophic (and that they,Barak and Netanyahu, were cynically looking to score populist points at theexpense of national security), Barak reacted with uncharacteristic anger. Heand Netanyahu, he said, are responsible “in a very direct and concrete way forthe existence of the State of Israel — indeed, for the future of the Jewishpeople.” As for the top-ranking military personnel with whom I’ve spoken whoargued that an attack on Iran was either unnecessary or would be ineffective atthis stage, Barak said: “It’s good to have diversity in thinking and for peopleto voice their opinions. But at the end of the day, when the military commandlooks up, it sees us — the minister of defense and the prime minister. When welook up, we see nothing but the sky above us.”

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