Barak: Criticism against Hagel 'exaggerated'

Outgoing defense minister says "intimacy" between US, Israel better than ever; does not believe Iran sanctions will work.

barak liberman 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Ministry of Defense)
barak liberman 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Ministry of Defense)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is a friend of Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in his parting speech to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday.
"I met the new Secretary of Defense of the US, and I found someone who supports Israeli security," Barak stated. "There was exaggerated criticism against him."
According to the outgoing Defense Minister, there is more "intimacy" between the US and Israel than ever before.
"There is an understanding in the US that Israel is solely responsible for its own security, military and intelligence," Barak added.
Any gaps between the US and Israel on Iran, Barak explained, have to do with "the pace of the ticking of the clock."
"Today everyone agrees that Iran is striving to gain nuclear power and regional hegemony," he said. "If Iran succeeds in gaining nuclear capabilities, it will influences the Saudis, Turkey and Egypt to do the same. It will be the end of the Non-Proliferation Treaty."
Barak hinted at the necessity of military action against Teheran, saying that "despite painful and influential sanctions against Iran, it will not bring them to the conclusion that it needs to surrender and give up its nuclear program."
Iran hopes to build a large amount of defended nuclear facilities, and thinks doing so will make it more difficult for the US to attack in the future, he explained.
Barak also discussed talks with world leaders who think that all of the Middle East's problems are related to the lack of a peace treaty with the Palestinians.
"I think that even if we had reached an agreement with the Palestinians, the Muslim Brotherhood would take over Egypt, Syria would have had a civil war and Iran would have continued to strive for hegemony in the Gulf and to attain nuclear power," he said.
Still, Barak added, "we live in a rough neighborhood, that is hard to explain even to our closest friends in the US or Europe. There is no acceptance of Israel's presence in the region."
"When the world - including our good friends - says 'don't worry, we'll take care of you even in the worst case scenarios,' I say, we can't take that for granted," Barak said, emphasizing Israel's right to act independently when faced with threats.
In the north, the Defense Minister explained, there is a major concern that advanced weapons systems will be transferred from Syria to Lebanon. Such transfers will be stopped if they involve strategic arms.
According to Barak, Hezbollah and Iran have helped Iran by transferring over 60,000 rockets.
He added that Israel sees the Lebanese government as responsible for what happens on its territory, and not only Hezbollah.
At the beginning of the meeting, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman declared it "the end of an era."
"There is no secret that we had many differences of opinion, but despite this, I want to say that I, in the name of all Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee members, want to thank you for the long time that you served the people of Israel and the defense establishment," Liberman told Barak.
In the coming years, the Yisrael Beytenu leader added, the Defense Ministry will have to face budget cuts and, for the first time, deal with equality in the burden of national service.