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No Softening on Iran: Israeli Defense Minister

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivers a speech to the Foreign Press Association members in Jerusalem, April 30, 2012.
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivers a speech to the Foreign Press Association members in Jerusalem, April 30, 2012.
Scott Bobb

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is maintaining the government's hard line against Iran's nuclear program, saying Israel will not be duped by negotiations, and warning that an attack is not out of the question. But leaders of Israel's security services have expressed strong reservations about the effectiveness of a military strike against Iran, and its repercussions.

On Monday, Barak acknowledged that stiff new sanctions against Iran helped restart talks between Iran and the group of six world powers known as the P-5 +1 - Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the United States.

"Today sanctions are stronger than ever," said Barak. "They forced the Iranians to take note, to sit down and to talk. The P-5+1 engagement of Iran, however, does not fill me with confidence. I may sound pessimistic, but the State of Israel cannot afford to be duped."

Barak also accused the Iranian government of seeking to buy time to make its alleged nuclear weapons program immune from military attacks.

The defense minister has been one of the strongest supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hardline position against Iran's nuclear activities, which Israel believes are aimed at making nuclear weapons.

But leaders of Israel's security services have expressed strong reservations about whether military action would be effective in stopping Iran's suspect activities.

Western powers lately have suggested that Iran be allowed to retain enough uranium enrichment capabilities to support nuclear medicine and generation of electrical power.  They see a military strike as the last option.

Barak told foreign journalists in Jerusalem that in his view, Iran is not to be trusted.

"Iranian deception and lies concerning their nuclear program have been on-going and well-documented," said Barak.  "Yet parts of the world, including some politically motivated Israeli figures, prefer to bury their heads in sand."

Iran has pledged to retaliate for any attack.  But Barak said as long as Tehran maintains what he called its goal of destroying the Israeli state and supports international terrorism, it must be prevented from becoming a nuclear power.

"A military option is not a simple one," Barak added.  "It will be complicated with certain associated risks. But a radical Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons would be far more dangerous both to the region and, indeed, to the whole world."

He said his primary responsibility as defense minister is to ensure that Israel's fate remains in its own hands.

Still, some Israelis prefer to wait and see. Sanctions should be given a chance, said Eitan Livne, nn Iran analyst in Israel.

"Sanctions are meant to make the last resort, the military option, unnecessary. So before we admit that sanctions have failed we must give them a real try," he said.

If the sanctions fail, Livne said, the international community should then reassess its strategy.

But political analysts note that Israel appears to be entering an election campaign period. Many opposition leaders have begun calling for the dissolution of parliament and elections within the next six months.

Hebrew University Professor Abraham Diskin said as a result, the issue of whether to attack Iran is likely to be placed on a back burner as candidates and voters focus on domestic issues.

"I don't think any move of Israel is going to be decided according to domestic or electoral consideration. It's too heavy of an issue. It's too existential on the one hand and the risk is too heavy on the other hand," said Diskin.

And he said although a military attack might provide a temporary boost to political leaders, they are not likely to undertake such a risky foreign mission during an electoral campaign.

Finally, the U.S. presidential campaign is also affecting the possibility of a military strike on Iran.

Public opinion polls have shown that less than half of the Israeli public supports an independent strike against Iran, while nearly three-fourths support a strike with U.S. backing.

View the timeline of Key Dates in Israel-Iran Relations

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by: George
May 02, 2012 9:47 AM
George to Gab: You are clearly a religious fanatic. I couldn't care less about the return of your imaginary characters.

Iranian students did take some hostages from the CIA spy center in Tehran. But, no one got killed. In contrast, the US overthrew the Iranian government in 1953; it shot down an Iranian passenger airline in 1988, killing all 290 aboard; it has supported the Jundullah terrorists who have killed many Iranians. So, get over the hostage crisis. That was 33 years ago. Grow up!


by: Godwin
May 02, 2012 9:30 AM
Very unfortunate that even Israelis themselves for whom the PM and DM are sticking out their necks do not understand the enormity of risk that is Iran. Unfortunately too, Barak Obama is an avowed enemy of the Israelis whom he hates with a passion. It is understandable that Barak Obama's position on Israel is no different from that of Ahmadinejad, and therein lies Israel's dilemma in unilateral pursuit of war with the kin pin of terrorism - IRAN. The only hope is if Obama loses in the elections.


by: josh
May 02, 2012 7:23 AM
you are wrong george go to you tube and type in wipe israel of the map also type iran death to america u will see they are a terrorist regime, and their number one goal is to wipe israel of the map they hate the jews, and america. they kill their own people 700+ human rights.


by: Gab to George
May 02, 2012 7:20 AM
The Islamic Republic of Iran declared war on the United States and Israel since 1979. They have since taken Americans hostage. They have murdered Americans in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have funded Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO and other terrorist organizations that have murdered Israelis. Now they want to develop nuclear capability to put teeth in their threats. The Islamic regime has to pay a price for these acts of war.


by: Gab to George
May 02, 2012 7:14 AM
While Christians look for the second coming of Christ, the Jews await the Messiah, and the Islamic Republic awaits the 12th Imam. However, of the three, Allah’s designated Mahdi is the only one who demands a violent path to conquer the world. President Ahmadinejad, and his cabinet, say they have a ‘signed contract’ with al Mahdi in which they pledge themselves to his work. Do they have the concept of separation of Church and State?


by: George
May 02, 2012 5:51 AM
The claim that Ahmadinejad wants to wipe out Israel off the map and that he denies the Holocaust are both lies. He never said either one of this things. Do a simple Google search for both these statement and you will find many references showing what he really said. There is not enough space here to explain the facts.


by: George
May 01, 2012 7:33 PM
When are people going to stop listening to Netanyahu and Barak.

As Yuval Diskin, who was the chief of the vaunted Israel's internal Security Agency until last year said a couple of days ago,

Bibi and Barak lie about Iran. He also said that they make decisions based on "messianic" feelings. Media should simply ignore these two.


by: George
May 01, 2012 12:43 PM
More hot air from Barak. As the speaker of the Iranian parliament has said, Israel is like a dog that barks a lot but won't bite. I don't even bother reading what Bibi or Barak say.

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