Israel Daily, Jan 9: Former PM Barak — Netanyahu Leading Country to Defeat over Palestine and Iran

PHOTO: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy PM Ehud Barak, October 2012

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has warned that the current leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is leading Israel to disaster.

Barak served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense under Netanyahu from 2009 to 2013. However, in an interview with Haaretz — two months before Knesset elections in which the Prime Minister is seeking another term — he says that Netanyahu blocked a constructive approach to the Israel-Palestine issue:

Sometimes we sat for hours on the patio of the Prime Minister’s Residence. I did most of the talking, explaining to them why we needed to enter into intensive negotiations with the Palestinians. That would be a critical act in its own right, in my view, and it could also reduce external and domestic opposition at a time when we would want to take independent action in Iran….

In the end, you see how the conversation continues, and you can go on smoking your cigar and eating green ice cream – but the conversation itself had actually become hollow. It went on because it wasn’t pleasant to admit that it had really ended.

Barak blames the failure to resolve the dispute for Palestine for the lack of military action to check the Iranian nuclear threat:

When people have to cope with their anxiety about a decision on an operation that is being broached by a leadership that isn’t capable of mustering the mental fortitude to deal with the Palestinian issue – which is the most painful issue, but also the simplest in terms of its structure and clarity – they ask themselves whether that leadership is truly capable of dealing with the big issue.

Speaking more widely, he accuses Netanyahu of hesitancy: “In the end, when we reach the critical junctions where decisions have to be made – maybe the most important decisions since the state’s establishment – you behave as though you prefer to be dragged there by a situation that will be forced on you.”

The outcome, Barak says, will be Israeli weakness before Iran and defeat over Palestine:

We have been ruling another nation for 47 years. We are ignoring the fact that the situation has changed in the international arena. The leaders and the people themselves don’t remember the circumstances and the struggle under which the State of Israel emerged. There are no leaders or publics in the world who remember the Holocaust as a personal experience. What they’ve seen for decades is the reversal of the image that accompanied Israel. It’s not David and his slingshot being threatened by Goliath.

What registers in the consciousness is the Palestinian youth who is symbolically using David’s weapon against Israelis who are armed to the teeth inside tanks, and with missiles and so forth. That image is becoming embedded in the public consciousness abroad. In the 21st century, there is no chance of maintaining over time a situation that will be accepted by the international community in which Israel continues to rule those millions of people and does not allow them to vote for the Knesset.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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