Ehud Barak is cooperating on a new biography about his political life. As part of the hoopla surrounding the book’s publication, its co-authors and Barak himself are spilling beans right and left. They’re telling the media about the most intimate of internal cabinet deliberations about going to war with Iran. They’re exposing secret Mossad operations in Europe (minutes 7-8 in above video) to penetrate Hezbollah’s electronic warfare capabilities. All for the greater glory of Ehud Barak and book sales.
Barak, the defense minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s last government, told his the co-authors (and they dutifully reported this on network news) there were no less than three separate instances (Hebrew) in which Israel was on the verge of attacking Iran during his tenure. In all three, various circumstances interfered with the decision and cancelled plans for war. In the first instance, Israel’s security cabinet turned in 2010 to IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and pressed him whether the army was sufficiently equipped and prepared to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. His answer was No, according to Barak. Due to a furious, long-term feud between the two, this clearly is meant to depict Ashkenazi as an indecisive commander who couldn’t or wouldn’t get the job done.
One year later, a new chief of staff, Benny Gantz, told Netanyahu and Barak that the army was now prepared to undertake the mission. At that point, the two politicians turned to their security cabinet for approval of the plan. But after a sobering presentation by military and intelligence officials, which pointed to the difficulties and potential losses that might be involved, two ministers they’d believed were in their camp, Yuval Steinitz and Bogie Yaalon, withdrew their support. No longer commanding a majority in the eight-member security cabinet, Netanyahu and Barak were again forced to shelve the plan.
Then in 2012, Israel again prepared to launch an attack. But a major Israel-U.S. joint military exercise had been previously planned for precisely this period. Israel requested a delay in the exercises, but the U.S. refused. Even this reckless government was unwilling to begin a war against Iran with U.S. generals and the secretary of defense sitting in its midst. Especially considering that Israel knew that America opposed such an attack and considered it against our own national interests.
Last May, Barak was interviewed by TV Channel 1 on the 15th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Barak, who reminds me in some ways of Tony Blair, thinks highly of himself and is always keen to defend his record. He is the smartest guy in the room. Only he knows how to get the job done. Everyone else are whiners, cry-babies or political dwarves (no insult intended against actual dwarves). In actuality, he’s so conniving and unlikable, and his ideas are so unremarkable that he commands no respect in Israeli politics.
The TV interviewer asked Barak to defend against the charge that the retreat from Lebanon emboldened Hezbollah and eventually turned it into the formidable fighting force it is today–with the capability to hit most of the country with rocket fire should there be another war. The former defense minister argued, correctly, that Israel’s entrance into, and ongoing occupation of southern Lebanon inspired the creation of Hezbollah. Further, in the early days, Mossad operatives saw Hezbollah as a formidable buffer against Israel’s then number one threat, the PLO. They traveled to Lebanon and connived to launch the new group, a fact almost unknown today. In other words, it wasn’t leaving Lebanon that made Hezbollah the powerful enemy it became, but entering it.
In the course of justifying his record, Barak betrays a top-secret Mossad operation in Europe. One of the Lebanese Shiite group’s key guerilla weapons were IEDs deployed in ambush of Israeli patrols. To counter these lethal devices, the IAF developed electronic warfare capability that jammed the devices so they could not harm Israeli forces. But at a certain point, the IAF realized that its electronic jamming was no longer working and the devices were successfully exploding and taking out Israeli military units. To determine what had happened, the Mossad undertook a top-secret mission in Europe to expose the supplier the Hezbollah micro-processors which were defeating the Israeli jamming. Once it discovered that, it could take counter-measures to defeat this technology.
In exposing this operation, Barak has done several remarkable things: he’s revealed that the Mossad had penetrated and mastered Hezbollah IEDs. It knew how they operated and had a pretty good idea of how to defeat them. Once it obtained the new micro-processors which were defeating the IAF, Mossad could then scour Europe for the supplier, obtain the blueprints, and turn them inside out. The result being that the IAF could resume its work in defeating the IEDs.
These IEDs may also have been created by Iran, which also used similar weapons in Iraq to attack U.S. troops. If so, Barak not only tattled on Hezbollah, but he revealed sensitive military intelligence on Iranian capabilities as well. An even more serious offense.
I’ve often reviled Israel as a national security state in which secrecy is king and transparency is detested. So many Israelis from Mordechai Vanunu to Anat Kamm to Ben Zygier have paid a terrible price for their own ‘sins’ against the intelligence apparatus. Zygier is particular is tragically relevant. He too exposed a Mossad operation involving an espionage cell operating within Hezbollah. Except for his troubles, the Australian-Israeli was arrested in secret, held incommunicado for months, threatened with decades in jail, lost his wife, and then committed suicide. All under the ‘watchful eye’ of the prison authorities and their friends in the Mossad.
As you can see, there are exceptions to the rule: if you’re powerful, if you know how to press the levers of influence, if you know where the bodies are buried, you can do or say virtually anything you want. Generals, spy chiefs, prime ministers leak like a sieve. They reveal secrets that would land any other Israeli in prison. And they do it not once or twice, but serially. Without any cost to themselves or their reputations.
Yes, Barak will be investigated. The far-right will raise their voices in disgust at his ‘transgressions’ (forgetting that “their” settler ministers do far worse–they spy on IDF units and then betray them to settlers so that they may attack them). But it will come to nothing. If they prosecuted Barak he’d tell-all to the police and the courts about worse sins committed by prime ministers, presidents and others among the political élite. It’s a terribly incestuous, corrupt lot. And there’s no such thing as accountability. Which is one of the reasons Israel is in the mess it is.
NOTE: I’ve just published my latest Mint Press News contribution, Palestinian-Americans Aren’t Welcome In Israel. It recounts the ordeal of Prof. George Khoury, deported from Israel because he was Palestinian-American and seeking to go on a religious pilgrimage to the Holy Land. These widespread deportations are a latter-day from of ethnic cleansing, a phenonenon well-known in Israeli history from the Nakba on. Please read and promote on social media.