After setting off a firestorm over the weekend when recordings of him saying that Israel had three times been on the verge of attacking Iran – only to cancel its plans due to either opposition in the cabinet or alleged IDF unpreparedness – more Barak comments surfaced Sunday.
In the recordings, Barak said – when asked about Prime Minister Binyamin Netayanhu's decision to appoint Major General Avihai Mandelblit as Government Secretary, against Barak's advice – that “Bibi is weak, he doesn't… he doesn't want to take tough steps if he is not forced to.”
Barak also analyzed Netanyahu's personality and said: “Bibi himself lives inside a cloud of deep pessimism and has a tendency… in the balance between fear and hope he prefers, usually, to be afraid; he once called it 'worried.'”
Barak also revealed that as defense minister, he plotted with MKs in Ehud Olmert's own Kadima party to unseat Olmert from the office of Prime Minister, which he occupied at the time.
Barak’s comments were made in recorded interviews with his biographers, Dani Dor and Ilan Kfir. The recordings, which were aired by Channel 2 News on Friday, were made available to the channel following the approval of the military censor.
In the latest recordings to surface, Barak is heard to say that he had discussed with senior Kadima officials – including Tzachi Hanegbi, now a Likud member – how to get Olmert out of the Prime Minister's office. “I discussed this with him, and Hanegbi wrote down exactly what needed to be done to remove Olmert,” said Barak, who was the Defense Minister at the time.
Barak's motive, of course, was to pave the way for him to emerge as Kadima leader and run in upcoming elections and eventually serve as Prime Minister himself.
“I told them that if they did not [get rid of Olmert] I would break up the government. And they said 'what are you talking about? How do we do that?' So I told them. I spoke to them specifically about what to do, step by step.”
Olmert, who was sentenced last May to eight months in prison after being convicted on several corruption charges, has not yet commented on the tapes, and neither has Hanegbi. Earlier, Hanegbi slammed Barak for saying on tape – and releasing to his biographers the information – that Israel had made a number of plans to attack Iranian nuclear sites between 2009 and 2012, but the plans were thwarted each time by either opposition in the cabinet or alleged IDF unpreparedness. Hanegbi asserted to Israel Radio on Sunday that publication of the information did not serve Israel's security interests, but refused to answer when asked if he believed Barak had harmed Israel's security.
Liberman: Barak is a chatterbox
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman also slammed the comments, saying that “more surprising than discussions that were supposed to be closely guarded secrets being publicized and analyzed by the media, is that Barak has broadcast that he is a chatterbox, who is unreliable. This is perhaps one reason, among others, that Iran is supported by the international community, while we, Israel, are swept into the corner," Liberman told Army Radio.
In the recordings, Barak is heard saying that he and Netanyahu had first planned an attack on Iran in 2010, but the attack was postponed when then-IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that the military was not prepared for such an operation.
The plan came up again a year later, in 2011, according to Barak, after Ashkenazi had been replaced by Benny Gantz. At that time, he said, Gantz indicated the military was indeed prepared for such an attack, and Barak and Netanyahu – who were backed by Liberman – brought the plan up for discussion before the “Octet," a group of eight senior ministers who made decisions on security-related issues.
Barak claimed it was during the Octet discussion that Moshe Ya’alon (then Strategic Affairs Ministers) and Yuval Steinitz (then Finance Minister) changed their minds about backing the plan, after previously expressing support for it.
According to Liberman, the public should never have been made aware of the Octet discussion in 2011 – then or now.
"Of course the public didn't need to know, let alone five years later. These things usually don't go out, not even 40 years later. But the disclosure now actually raises a question – how much can Israelis be privy to secrets and should information be shared with them?"
"The fact is that even Barak understood the severity of [this information] and tried to stop the military censor from approving it for publication. But, he was unsuccessful," Liberman concluded.