quarta-feira, 28 de março de 2012

2 Israeli Leaders Make the Iran Issue Their Own

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat facing Defense Minister Ehud Barak during a cabinet meeting this month in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have turned into the odd couple of Israeli politics in whose hands sits the prospect of an attack on Iran. From opposite political traditions with distinct experiences and worldviews, the two have forged a tight bond, often excluding the rest of the Israeli leadership.

U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran (March 20, 2012)
Times Topics: Iran | Israel

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For Mr. Netanyahu, an Iranian nuclear weapon would be the 21st-century equivalent of the Nazi war machine and the Spanish Inquisition — the latest attempt to destroy the Jews. Preventing that is the mission of his life. For Mr. Barak, who spurns talk of a second Holocaust and fear for Israel’s existence, it is a challenge about strategy: “zones of immunity” and “red lines,” the operational details of an assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“All leaders have kitchen cabinets, but Netanyahu and Barak have established a kitchenette of two,” remarked Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the Yediot Aharonot newspaper, in an interview. “They haven’t discussed Iran with the rest of the government in weeks and have convinced themselves there is only one way to deal with Iran — their way.”

A top Israeli official who works closely with both leaders and spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the cabinet had not talked lately about Iran, but noted that detailed and long-standing preparation had gone into the possibility of a military strike. Of the two men, he said: “One views himself as a savior, the other lives for a good operation. They’re a strange pair who have come to appreciate each other. Together they control this issue.”

Mr. Netanyahu is the leader of the right-wing Likud Party and grew up in the revisionist Zionist tradition of maximizing territory, standing up aggressively to Israel’s opponents and rejecting the quasi socialism of David Ben-Gurion, the founding prime minister. Mr. Barak grew up on a collective farm deep within the heart of Labor Zionism, and after a long and decorated military career became chairman of the Labor Party. He served briefly as prime minister before losing popular support and an election to Ariel Sharon in 2001.

“On the surface they appear very different,” commented Daniel Ben-Simon, a left-leaning Labor Party member of Parliament who worked with Mr. Barak. “Netanyahu cannot disconnect Israel from the Holocaust. He sees himself as the prime minister of the Jewish people. Barak is the ultimate Israeli, the prince of Zionism. Many thought Barak would rein in Netanyahu on Iran. Instead he joined with him into a two-man show.”

While many here fear a catastrophe if Israel strikes at Iran, Mr. Barak and Mr. Netanyahu increasingly argue that there may be no other option. Their view is that given a choice between an Iran with nuclear weapons — which they say could use them against Israel directly or through proxies, as well as spur a regional arms race — and the consequences of an attack on Iran before it can go nuclear, the latter is far preferable. There will be a counterattack, they say; people will lose their lives and property will be destroyed. But they say it is the lesser of two evils.

“Rockets will fall on this building, but things would be far worse if Iran got the bomb,” said a top former official who has worked for both men, as he sat in a seaside Tel Aviv hotel lobby.

He added that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak were “meeting one on one with certain cabinet ministers in order to shape a majority in the 14,” referring to the 14-member security cabinet.

They have known each other a long time and have developed a strong mutual dependence. Mr. Barak’s political career, which once seemed so promising, now relies heavily on his relationship with Mr. Netanyahu. And given Mr. Netanyahu’s limited military experience, without the backing of Mr. Barak, who is seen as a military mastermind, he would have trouble winning support for his policy.

Mr. Barak, 70, was a commander of Mr. Netanyahu, 62, in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit in which they both served in the early 1970s. Both have also grown relatively wealthy in recent years from speeches and consulting when not in government, and both feel they understand American politics especially well.

If they did decide to attack, they would need the backing of a majority of the security cabinet. Most estimates are that they would get that support, although the vote might be as close as 8 to 6. But by keeping the issue off the cabinet’s agenda for now, they could be counting on seeking an 11th-hour vote, when it would be harder for ministers to oppose the attack.

Fonte:The New York Times

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