Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak is claiming that Israel was ready to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2011, but Ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Yuval Steinitz refused, and the plan was nixed.
Barak’s comments were made in recorded interviews with the authors of a newly published biography on him. 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 recordings, Barak is heard saying that he and Prime Minister Binyamin 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 then came up again a year later, in 2011, according to Barak, after Ashkenazi had been replaced as Chief of Staff by Benny Gantz. At that time, he said, Gantz indicated that the military was indeed prepared for such an attack, and Barak and Netanyahu – who were backed by then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman – brought the plan up for discussion before the “Octet”, a group of eight senior ministers who made decisions on security-related issues.
According to Barak, it was during the Octet discussion that Ya’alon (then Strategic Affairs Ministers) and Steinitz (then Finance Minister) changed their minds about backing the plan, after previously expressing support for it.
“Gantz said [at the time] that we have the ability to [strike Iran], we know all the restrictions, all the risks”, Barak recalled the meeting in 2011. “Bibi, Liberman and I support the operation and plan to present it to the Octet.
The Octet brings together all the people who have a more deep understanding of this subject, including two people who are opposed. Bibi was to make sure in very long talks, he held long talks with both of them, with Bogie and Steinitz, and then at some point during our consultations Bibi said [Ya’alon and Steinitz] support [the operation], that it’s fine [with them].”
“And then we held a discussion in the Octet on this,” Barak continued. “We come there after Bibi told the two of us – me and Liberman – that Bogie and Steinitz support [the plan]. The Chief of Staff shows all the things, all the difficulties, all the complications, all the possible problems including the possibility of losses, and then you see Bogie and Steinitz ‘melting’ in front of us. Either Bibi did not properly prepare them or he underestimated what a response of ‘yes’ on their part means.”
“It’s the same Bogie and Steinitz that today, if you ask the public, they are the most militant when it comes to attacking Iran, if they did not change their minds,” the former Defense Minster charged.
Responding to the leaked recordings, Minister Steinitz’s office said, “Minister Steinitz views as very serious the disclosure of content from closed cabinet meetings, and wonders how things like this pass the censorship. In any case, Steinitz keeps what he said in closed meetings to himself, and does not intend to confirm, deny or comment on the matter.”
Minister Ya’alon office said in response, “We have no intention to comment on what is happening in the Octet or the Cabinet discussions in general, and on distorted and tendentious versions in particular.”