Gilad Schalit released by Hamas captors as part of prisoner swap in 2011..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first opposed the release of Gilad Schalit, and then obsessed about being at the center of the pictures during the kidnapped soldier’s homecoming, former defense minister Ehud Barak said in leaked tapes that continue to generate headlines.
“As much as he opposed [the release of] Gilad Schalit, I sat on him for months” to release him, Barak was heard saying in interviews conducted and taped by Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor for an upcoming book about him.
In addition, Barak – who was Netanyahu’s defense minister at the time – said he pressed the prime minister to push through the government – immediately after the release – the recommendations of the Shamgar Commission, which would regulate prisoner releases in the future.
“In the end, [Netanyahu] was convinced that he needed to free Schalit, but was not convinced to do the necessary follow up, and so found himself later with three kidnapped youths,” Barak said in reference to last year’s kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah in Gush Etzion.
This segment of the “Barak tapes” followed Channel 2’s friday night broadcast where Barak – who was in favor of an attack on Iran in 2010 – said Netanyahu had been prevented by his own ministers from doing so. In another segment, broadcast on Sunday night, Barak was heard saying Netanyahu was weak and could not make tough decisions.
The former defense minister spoke in the segment aired Monday night about the way in which the prime minister “sent teams” to organize Schalit’s reception. He said Netanyahu was anxious to ensure he would be in the central “frame” when Schalit arrived, and that this illustrated a “childishness” in his personality.
Netanyahu, Barak said, “has a weakness that can lead to childish places in order to achieve something momentary.
For Bibi [Netanyahu], there is a very strong feeling that the picture, the word, is truly more important than the action.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a harsh comment in return, saying it would not be surprised if “it did not soon become clear that former minister Barak discovered the wheel and was the first to land on the moon.”
Netanyahu, the statement continued, leads his governments “responsibly, with determination, and with a view of what is good for the welfare and security of all the country’s citizens.”
This, it said, is what guided him in the decision-making process that led to the release of Schalit, Operation Protective Edge and other vital strategic issues he has dealt with.
Netanyahu’s Likud, meanwhile, issued a statement calling Barak “pathetic” and saying that his effort “to return to the public stage has crossed all lines, including defaming the prime minister, rewriting history to glorify himself, unraveling the norms of national responsibility and damaging the vital interests of the State of Israel.
According to the party statement, Netanyahu did not need Barak to agree to the Schalit deal. It was the prime minister who decided on the swap and brought it to the government for approval, just as it was Netanyahu who decided to rearrest those released in the deal who later returned to terrorism.
Netanyahu “got along very well before Barak, and after him,” the statement said. “The only one who is not getting along is Barak himself, who is looking for any path to return to public life, and has a pitifully inflated sense of self-worth.”
Kfir, the co-author of the book on Barak, said in an interview on the Knesset Channel Sunday that he had released some of the tapes for promotional purposes