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Barak On Striking Iran's Nuclear Capability

Defense Minister Ehud Barak Indicates Israel Should Attack Iran Only To Prevent 'Concrete Nuclear Capability' - Israel Was Keeping All Options Open

'Hezbollah Has Acquired 42,000 Rockets - Some Of Them Can Hit Dimona & Beersheva In Southern Israel'

'If Possible, Israel Ready To Resume Cease- fire With Hamas In Gaza'

Ehud Barak (Photo: Amit Shabi)

When should Israel attack Iran's nuclear weapons facilities? IsraCast reports that Barak indicated where he stood when he briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee in Jerusalem. On the burning issue of the shattered cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza, Barak stated that Israel would be ready to resume the truce, if possible.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has spelled out his position about an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear weapons drive. Barak stated that Israel should act only to prevent the Iranians from acquiring a 'concrete nuclear capability'. He did not refer to Iran by name but spoke of 'neighboring countries' and he was answering questions about why Israel was not acting more forcefully to stop the Hamas rocketing of Sderot and the Hezbollah build - up by Hamas in southern Lebanon, under the noses of the UNIFIL force. In any event, the Iranians were still trying to hoodwink the world by proceeding full speed ahead in their nuclear weapons program. As for Israel, it was still keeping all options on the table and was advising its friends abroad to do the same. Barak was asked what he thought about Moshe Yaalon's proposal that Israel should consider assassinating Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for wiping Israel off the map. Barak replied that the less said about Iran, the better. In another nuclear context, Barak referred to the very deep instability in more distant Pakistan, which posed a no less dangerous international threat.

Hezbollah's Rockets Can Now Target Dimona

Hezbollah Terrorists

The Defense Minister disclosed that Hezbollah has now acquired some 42,000 rockets and missiles, some of which could now reach Dimona the site of Israel's nuclear reactor and the southern city of Beersheva. The recent Hezbollah military exercise in southern Lebanon was proof that UN resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War, was not working. It was also another indication of Hezbollah growing involvement in Lebanese political life; this meant that Israel would hold Lebanon be responsible for any future Hezbollah provocations.

Israel Ready To Resume Gaza Cease- fire

Speaking later in a special Knesset debate, Barak declared Israel was ready to resume the Gaza cease-fire with Hamas, if possible. Barak rejected opposition charges that he was playing election politics by not ordering an IDF ground operation into Gaza to halt the renewed rocketing of Sderot. During the past three weeks, Hamas and other terror groups have launched over 100 rockets at Israeli towns and villages. This followed the IDF's interception of a 'ticking tunnel' from |Gaza into Israel for a future terror raid like the one that abducted Corporal Gilad Shalit over two years ago. He accused his right-wing critics of sabre-rattling and declared that he was Israel's Minister of Defense and not Minister of War. Before the current cease- fire the terrorists in Gaza had fired an average of some 500 rockets a month, terrorizing Israeli civilians in Sderot and along the Gaza border. During the cease-fire, this had dropped to less than 10 rockets per month. Barak chided his critics by saying: "Go down to Sderot and ask the people there what they think of the lull in the rocketing - I do not regret one day of the cease- fire: the violence in Gaza will not run away!" During the current flare-up that began three weeks ago, some 150 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip.

Barak's critics were unconvinced by his arguments - right wingers charged that the Defense Minister was burying head in the sand because Hamas was continually building up its arsenal for a massive rocket barrage on Israel, when it deemed fit. The longer Israel waited the greater price it would pay to the terrorists.

Election Campaign Update

Benyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

The Likud's Bibi Netanyahu has been gradually widening his lead over Kadima's Tzipi Livni with Labor's Ehud Barak trailing far, far behind. So for Netanyahu the question is how can he sustain his lead bolstered by the acquisitions of Moshe Yaalon, Benny Begin and Dan Meridor? The two other main parties Kadima and Labor now have to focus on playing catch-up while vying with each other for center and left of center voters.

Now that Labor MK Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak have patched up their bitter feud, what does it portend for the future? For one thing, it shows how desperate Labor is with the polls showing it will garner less than ten seats in the 120 member Knesset. Peretz, the former labor union boss, has told IsraCast that he will now play a leading role in attacking frontrunner Bibi Netanyahu of the Likud, who as a former finance minister instituted changes that have now hit the pension plans of many Israelis. Peretz also says he is absolutely sure that the economic issue can now be made the key issue in the election campaign - Labor is already spreading the slogan 'Bibi has wiped out your retirement pensions!' The Likud fires back that it was Finance Minister Netanyahu who saved Israel's economy from total collapse several years ago. It will be interesting to see if the current election campaign will highlight the social issue of whether Israel should go back to some of its more socialist underpinnings as proposed by Labor or continue with its capitalistic approach championed by Netanyahu.

Barak, who has staved off a half - hearted move in Labor to dump him as party leader, will soon kick off his campaign by naturally highlighting security. He will focus on the issue of: "Who do you want to answer the telephone at three AM about whether to go to war or not!" Barak believes that despite opinion polls, on this question many Israelis will pick him rather Bibi Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni. When IsraCast put that question to Kadima MK Otniel Schneller he replied: "With Tzipi Livni as prime minister, she'll see to it there won't be any 3 AM telephone calls!" Livni herself is keeping up her assault on the Shas ultra-orthodox party by charging that Netanyahu has promised Shas the Education portfolio, if he forms the next cabinet. It was previously denied by Netanyahu. This would be an anathema for many secular voters.

David Essing

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