Israel’s Barak: Election Would Not Alter Iran Plans

The prospect of an immi­nent elec­tion in Israel will not affect its strat­e­gy for tack­ling Iran’s nuclear pro­gram, includ­ing plans for a pos­si­ble pre­emp­tive war, Defense Min­is­ter Ehud Barak said on Wednes­day.

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Rifts in Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu’s con­ser­v­a­tive coali­tion over mil­i­tary con­scrip­tion and bud­get cuts have prompt­ed par­ties to mobilise to bring for­ward the bal­lot to as ear­ly as Sep­tem­ber, a year ahead of schedule. 

That has raised ques­tions about whether an Israeli strike on Iran­ian nuclear sites — long threat­ened, although viewed by some Netanyahu crit­ics as a bluff — might now be shelved due to gov­ern­ment reluc­tance to send poten­tial vot­ers to bomb shelters. 

“Elec­tions will not affect delib­er­a­tions of the pro­fes­sion­al ech­e­lon in every­thing regard­ing the Iran­ian issue,” Barak said on his Face­book page, adding that Israel still saw mil­i­tary force as among “options on the table”. 

Israel, reput­ed to have the region’s sole atom­ic arse­nal, has long said it would strike Iran to pre­vent it from get­ting nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear pro­gram is peaceful. 

The Unit­ed States and Euro­pean Union have sharply tight­ened eco­nom­ic sanc­tions on Iran this year, and have called on Israel to show restraint to give the new mea­sures a chance to bite. Wash­ing­ton says it too would be will­ing to strike Iran as a last resort, but the White House believes it is too ear­ly to give up on diplomacy. 

Nuclear talks between major pow­ers and Iran, which broke down last year, restart­ed in Istan­bul on April 14 and are expect­ed to con­tin­ue lat­er this month in Baghdad. 

Netanyahu’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Yaakov Amidror, was tour­ing Euro­pean cap­i­tals this week to hear argu­ments in favor of the six world pow­ers’ nego­ti­a­tions with Iran. 

“We are telling him (Amidror) that we need time,” a West­ern diplo­mat told Reuters, say­ing the goal was “ver­i­fi­able com­pli­ance” by Iran with nuclear anti-pro­lif­er­a­tion safeguards. 

Netanyahu and Barak have main­tained a con­tin­u­ous­ly hawk­ish stance in pub­lic towards Iran, but there are signs that the Israeli secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment may not be keen on war. 

In a rare pub­lic rebuke on Fri­day, Netanyahu’s for­mer inter­nal secu­ri­ty chief accused the prime min­is­ter and Barak of hav­ing a “mes­sian­ic” pol­i­cy, and of over­stat­ing their belligerence. 

“A bark­ing dog doesn’t bite,” Yuval Diskin said. 

Sur­veys show Netanyahu’s Likud par­ty is like­ly to win the most seats in an elec­tion, but most Israelis would oppose going solo in an attack on Iran. 

Israel could be vul­ner­a­ble to cross-bor­der mis­sile salvoes from Iran and its guer­ril­la allies in retal­i­a­tion for any strike. For­ti­fi­ca­tion dri­ves over­seen by its Civ­il Defense Min­istry have lagged, with the cur­rent min­is­ter, Matan Vil­nai, due to step down in August and no suc­ces­sor in sight. 

This arti­cle is pub­lished with kind per­mis­sion of “Avi­a­tion Week & Space Tech­nol­o­gy


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