Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former defense minister Ehud Barak hurt national security and deterrence by describing the deliberations in cabinet meetings on whether or not to attack Iran, several politicians and officials, including former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who was involved in the discussions, charged Sunday.
According to Liberman, there is no doubt Barak revealed state secrets that hurt Israel’s international standing.
“When discussions and actions that are supposed to be closely-guarded state secrets are debated in the media, you are broadcasting that you are a chatterbox, that you are not serious, that you are not trustworthy,” LIberman told Army Radio. “That may be one of the reasons why Iran is embraced by the world and we were pushed into a corner…Over the years we talked and chatted a lot about the most sensitive topics in the media.”
“How many times did we have to apologize to the US that the most sensitive details leaked?...Other countries see this and reconsider how much information they should share with Israel,” the Yisrael Beytenu chairman posited, suggesting that such information should not be released for several decades.
On Friday night, Channel 2 News played a recording of Barak saying he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were prepared to attack Iran several times. In 2010, they thought they had a majority in the “Forum of Eight” ministers, but their plans were thwarted by the last-minute hesitancy of fellow cabinet members Yuval Steinitz and Moshe Ya’alon, who later replaced Barak as Defense Minister, as well as former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who would not conclusively say that the IDF was fully capable of executing the attack.
The recording came from a series of interviews with Barak for the forthcoming Hebrew-language biography about him, Milhamot Hayay
(“My Life’s Wars”), by Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor.
The part of the interviews that was broadcast was supposed to be off-the-record and used as background information after approval from the Military Censor, or so Barak thought. The former defense minister was surprised when he found out that they were going to be broadcast and tried to prevent Channel 2 from airing them.
Channel 2 said the Military Censor’s Office approved the recording, leading Steinitz and Ya’alon to question why it did so. The ministers declined to otherwise comment.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) plans to summon officials from the Military Censor’s Office to determine if they really did approve publicizing Barak’s comments and why.
“Broadcasting [the recordings] does not serve Israel’s security, and they should not be discussed,” he told Israel Radio, and refused to elaborate further.
Interior Minister Silvan Shalom said that the fact that the censor approved the recordings for broadcast could lead ministers to hesitate before speaking freely in closed meetings, out of concern that their words could be made public within a few years.
Uzi Arad, who was national security advisor at the time of the deliberations, also accused Barak of misusing information from a closed and confidential forum.
“This is endemic and common and when we hear such things being leaked, they come from senior officials in the security forces or from ministers, without exception,” he told Army Radio.
Arad suggested that a law be passed to put an end to leaks, saying that without such a law, “the things that are happening now with Barak will happen again.”
As for the content of the recordings, Arad said “it is impossible for the prime minister and senior ministers and officials to support the strike and then have it fade away.”
“If Iran really gets options for a nuclear breakout and obtaining a nuclear weapon it will be one of Israel’s greatest failures,” he added.