Barak's statements come after months of tough talk from Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials. At the UN General
Assembly in New York just last month, Netanyahu stood at the podium with
a drawing of a bomb and pointed ominously to a "red line" that Tehran
must not be allowed to cross. "Ladies and gentlemen, the relevant question is not when Iran will get
the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop
Iran from getting the bomb," Netanyahu said. "The red line must be drawn on Iran's nuclear enrichment program because
these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we
can definitely see and credibly target."
In the latest interviews, however, Barak stressed that Israel's position
is essentially unchanged: it still believes Tehran is seeking nuclear
weapons; Israel still believes that action must be taken to prevent that
before Iran amasses sufficient enriched uranium to produce a weapon;
Israel retains the right to take unilateral action; and Israel will
never delegate responsibility for its security to even "the most trusted
and trustworthy ally."
Speaking to the BBC on October 30, Barak repeated that no options were
off the table. "We are determined not to let [Iran] turn nuclear," he
said. "I believe leaders of the world when they say that no option is
off the table. When they say it, I hope they mean it. We mean it."
An Israeli 'War Cabinet' Coming?
Barak's comments come as domestic politics in Israel seem to have taken a
turn to the right in anticipation of an early general election to be
held on January 22. Netanyahu's Likud party this week announced it was forming a bloc with
nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party,
an alliance that many analysts predict could be formidable in the next
But it means it's impossible for Netanyahu to position himself -- as he
did in 2009 -- as a center-right option. Israelis who were concerned by
the bellicose nature of Netanyahu's rhetoric in recent months may be
downright alarmed by what they could hear from a joint
Netanyahu-Lieberman ticket. Lieberman is an outspoken nationalist who
openly admires Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In addition, there has been speculation that the hawkish Lieberman could
be moved to the Defense Ministry. Centrist politician Tzipi Livni told
the "Jerusalem Post" that "Lieberman is the one who threatened to bomb
the Aswan Dam [in Egypt]. Is this the defense minister that Israel needs
right now?" The editor in chief of Haaretz, Aluf Benn, wrote that the alliance
would create a "war cabinet that will lead Israel into a confrontation