Barak in new recording: Netanyahu is weak, he doesn't take tough steps unless he's forced to

"Bibi himself is immersed in a kind of deep pessimism and has a the balance between fear and hope, he prefers, generally, to err on the side of fear."

Former prime minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [File] (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [File]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to do anything difficult unless he’s forced, former defense minister Ehud Barak said in a second round of recordings broadcast on Channel 2 News.
“Bibi is weak,” Barak said, referring to the prime minister.
“He doesn’t want to take tough steps if he isn’t forced.”
The recording came from a series of interviews he did for the forthcoming Hebrew-language biography about him, Milhamot Hayay (“My Life’s Wars”), by Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor.
Barak also said Netanyahu “is shrouded by a deep pessimism” and that “in the balance between fear and hope, he will always choose being more afraid; he calls it concerned.”
The first comment, about the prime minister being weak, was in the context of him appointing Avichai Mandelblit as cabinet secretary, against the advice of Barak who said Mandelblit was not appropriate for the job because of his connection to the Harpaz Affair. Mandelblit was recommended by former justice minister Yaakov Neeman.
In its first reaction to the Barak tapes, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement Sunday evening saying: “The time has come to stop the irresponsible discussion about matters dealing with the security of the state.”
Netanyahu, according to his office, continues to act “responsibly and forcefully” on behalf of Israel’s security, and does not “hide his head in the sand;” points out the threats and dangers as they are; and acts “with determination and decisively” against them.
Netanyahu acted in this matter several days ago in Syria, where Israel struck an Islamic Jihad missile squad that Jerusalem said was responsible for rockets fired on the North, and has done so with dozens of other decisions he has made, many of them hidden from the public’s view, it added.
Also Sunday, several politicians and officials, including former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman who was involved in the discussions, accused Barak of harming national security and deterrence by describing the deliberation of cabinet meetings on whether or not to attack Iran.
On Friday night, Channel 2 News played a recording of Barak saying he and 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 state the army was fully capable of executing the attack.
The part of the interviews broadcast Friday 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 it was going to be broadcast and tried to prevent Channel 2 from airing it.
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 whether they really approved 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, refusing to elaborate further.
Interior Minister Silvan Shalom said 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. 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.
Uzi Arad, who was national security adviser 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.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.