I know that’s awfully strong language, but I can back it up. Haaretz has been filled, over the past week or so, with a torrent of leaks accompanied by screaming headlines about the Iran menace. Some of the articles are attributed directly to Israel’s defense minister and some are anonymous. From the tenor and claims, they all derive from the same source: Ehud Barak. Lately, Barak has trumpeted an alleged update of the National Intelligence Estimate that shows that Iran is in the final stages of developing a nuclear warhead. After backing off his claim that his information derived specifically from the NIE, the defense minister’s stenographer, Barak Ravid, is back today with yet another installment in the fable of the smoking gun NIE. Today’s story is written as if Barak hadn’t back pedaled at all. So instead of retracting Ravid’s original story, Haaretz is doubling down on what I believe to be a false report.
Barak doesn’t offer any proof for the claim, doesn’t offer any proof of what’s in the alleged document, nor does the Obama administration confirm any aspect of his claims, including the existence of the purported report. I personally queried a respected national security reporter who told me he knows of no new NIE. When challenged by Tony Karon as to the credibility of the claim, Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid admitted he hadn’t seen the NIE but that the western and Israelis sources who confirmed it were “very reliable.” Sorry, but Ehud Barak and other anonymous sources simply aren’t sufficient to establish reliability, especially considering my conflicting account.
All of this means that it’s very likely that Barak is trying to establish a narrative as a prelude to an Israeli attack. What he’s doing in the media is the equivalent to the “softening up” that military forces do before they launch their main assault on enemy positions. Barak is laying the groundwork for an attack, making his best sales pitch to the Israeli public and the rest of the world. He’s hoping that when the signal comes and the attack begins, all this work will result in a populace that willingly rallies to the cause, or at least acquiesces in the decisions made by the political leadership.
All of this makes Ehud Barak one of the most dangerous men in the Middle East right about now. He doesn’t care how he does it, whether he has to lie or cheat. He wants a war and by God he’s going to get one.
The only other individual who rivals him in this regard is Bibi Netanyahu. Ynet reports today that the prime minister has demanded changes in the coalition agreement that would grant him unprecedented powers in the course of a war against Iran. He would be able to overrule the opposition of reluctant ministers, delay decisions he disagrees with even though passed by a cabinet majority, and schedule additional deliberations on such matters until his he gets his way.
It’s no secret that in the 8-member security cabinet Bibi doesn’t have a majority that favors an attack. These new powers would allow him to bypass an unfavorable vote and bring the matter up for discussion until he gets his way. The clear message to any minister who opposes him is–stop wasting my time, I’m going to get my way with you or without you. He may, under the proposed rule, delay implementing any decision with which he disagrees.
Until now, ministers had one week to decide how they would vote on any cabinet matter. Netanyahu proposes changing this to a 12 hour period, which takes away from ministers the right to study and consider their vote. All would be done in great haste. His office explains the reason for the proposed change is to prevent ministers from changing their minds once they’ve signaled their decision. More likely it’s to snow a minister under and force him to acquiesce to the Supreme Leader’s will.
War preparations escalate on the Israeli Home Front as well. Yediot reports (Haaretz in English) a national alert will be sent via SMS to hundreds of thousands of Israelis via cell phones. It will test preparedness for the type of emergency that would be involved in an Israeli attack on Iran. It could warn citizens of an impending Iranian counter-attack, tell them where to find bomb shelters in their neighborhood, etc.