Barak criticised over Iran comments

Fri, Nov 18, 2011, 00:00

ISRAELI DEFENCE minister Ehud Barak has been widely criticised after comments interpreted as justifying Iran’s drive to obtain a nuclear bomb.

In a television interview he gave in the US, Mr Barak was asked whether he would strive for nuclear weapons if he was in Iran’s position.

He answered: “Probably. I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel.”

After a wave of criticism from Israeli politicians Mr Barak tried to downplay his comments, saying they were “purely hypothetical”.

Many Israelis were reminded of a similar faux pas in 1998 when Mr Barak said in a television interview that if he were a Palestinian he would probably have joined one of the terror organisations.

His comments came despite instructions from Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to ministers not to comment on Iran’s nuclear programme.

There has been fierce public debate in Israel in recent weeks over the feasibility of a pre-emptive strike to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Israel’s official policy is that, while “crippling” international sanctions against Teheran is the desired strategy, “all options remain on the table”.

Foreign media reports linked Mossad to last weekend’s mysterious explosion at a military base outside of Tehran.

Knesset member Zevulun Orlev, from the right-wing Jewish Homeland party, urged Mr Netanyahu to put his defence minister in his place and enforce complete silence on the Iranian issue.

“The defence minister’s excessive chatter reflects irresponsibility and causes damage to Israel’s ability to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat,” he said.

Opposition Knesset member Yoel Hasson of Kadima said Mr Barak was acting like a political analyst and not the minister responsible for the security of Israeli citizens.

Other politicians and former military officers described Mr Barak’s comments as damaging to Israel’s security and granting legitimacy to Iran.

Meanwhile, the Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment further after yesterday’s Irish Timesreport quoting Irish officials rejecting Israeli allegations of Irish hostility towards Jerusalem.

Israeli news website Ynet published no apology despite a number of inaccuracies revealed in its reporting of a weekend event organised in Dublin by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.