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Entries in Ehud Barak (5)

Thursday
Nov292012

Leon Panetta and Israeli Counterpart Ehud Barak Talk Afghanistan, Iran, Syria -- and Friendship

MARK WILSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At a joint Pentagon press conference on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak addressed questions about Afghanistan, the Iron Dome missile defense system protecting Israel, as well as Iran, Syria, and Israel’s security.

Panetta addressed questions on the timing of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and said the exact number of the troops that will remain past the 2014 timetable is still being decided.

“The fundamental mission in Afghanistan is to establish an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself and ensure that al Qaeda never again finds a safe haven within Afghanistan from which to conduct attacks on the United States or any other country,” said Panetta.

He highlighted the three missions for which the United States will need to keep a presence in the country: counter-terrorism, training and assisting the Afghan army, and having enough troops to enable supporting any American forces still in the country.

Both leaders spoke about the ongoing conflict in Syria, with Panetta saying unequivocally that the United States has not provided any shoulder-to-fire missiles or missiles of that type to opposition forces. He said the Pentagon continues to work with other nations in monitoring the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.

Barak said there is an “urgent need ” to topple Syrian President Assad’s regime.

“It’s criminal behavior on a global scale, what he’s doing to his own people, using jet fighters and helicopters and artillery and tanks, killing his own people. The whole world is watching,” he said.

Barak was blunt about Iran’s nuclear program, and said that while sanctions are working, he doesn’t think they will be enough to stop the country from building a nuclear bomb or continuing to menace the region. While not explicitly calling for military intervention, the Israeli minister expressed doubt that there will be any other option.

“In regard to Iran, the kind of physical attack option is an option. It should be there. It should remain on the table, never be removed,” said Barak.

“Of course, we would love to see some heavenly intervention that will stop it, to wake up some morning and learn that they gave up on their nuclear intentions or probably that the Arab Spring has been translated into Farsian, emerge in the cities of Tehran, Mashad and Isfahan. But you cannot build a strategy based on these wishes or prayers,” he said.

Panetta called the current relationship between the U.S and Israel “the strongest in history” based on the assistance America is providing, the highlight of which, he said, is the Iron Dome. Panetta marveled at how effective the system was during Israel’s recent conflict with Gaza, intercepting more than 400 rockets.

“Its success is a statement to the ingenuity of the Israeli people and to the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security. Today, I assured minister that our strong commitment to Iron Dome will continue into the future,” Panetta said.

At times, the press conference seemed more like a retirement ceremony or a chat between old friends. Secretary Panetta hugged his Israeli counterpart at the start of the conference and reflected on the “decades” of friendship the men have shared. He also awarded the retiring minister with the Pentagon’s highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Award.

“Minister Barak is a battle-hardened warrior. And like so many great military leaders, he is fundamentally a man of peace, because he’s seen war firsthand. He recognizes that we must take every possible step to try to avoid war,” said Panetta. “And as he prepares to close this chapter in his career, I’m delighted to be able to recognize his immense contributions by bestowing on him the Department of Defense’s highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Award.  Ehud, thank you for your friendship, for your dedication to the shared dream of a better, and safer and more secure future for Israel and for the United States. ”

The men also exchanged gifts. Minister Barak presented Secretary Panetta with a tiny Iron Dome model as a thank-you present.

“It doesn’t explode. It cannot shoot missiles, don’t worry,” Barak said, laughing.  “It’s just to give you a small memento of our appreciation for your support.”

Panetta returned the favor with his own gift -- a signed and framed photograph of the two men taken during his visit to the Iron Dome sight last August.

“I want to give you one more memento,” said Panetta chuckling as he handed it over. “This was at the Iron Dome site, and I wanted you to have that memento … representing our friendship,” he said.

Not missing a beat, his old friend  joked, “Yours is much more handsome.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov262012

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Leave Politics

Tara Todras-Whitehill-Pool/Getty Images(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- In a surprise announcement, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday he'll be leaving politics for good once a new government is formed following the January elections.

Barak is one of the country's most famous politicians, having served in a number of roles, including prime minister from 1999 to 2001.  He is also Israel's most decorated soldier.

Barak is believed to support a military strike on Iran's nuclear program, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Monday thanked Barak for his long service.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar052012

Give Diplomacy a Chance to Work in Iran, Obama Tells Israel

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking before the annual conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday, President Obama rebuffed calls from the Israeli government and its supporters to more starkly warn Iran against building a nuclear weapon, instead urging them to allow time for diplomatic pressures to work.

The president also assailed “loose talk of war,” which he said only helped Iran.

“I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy -- backed by pressure -- to succeed,” Obama said, adding that “the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists.”

Detailing the various ways the sanctions programs have been effective in squeezing the Iranian regime, the president insisted that “the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons.  That’s what history tells us.”

Obama asked the audience to “remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world.  Already, there is too much loose talk of war,” which he said only helped the Iranian government by driving up petroleum prices.

“Now is not the time for bluster,” he said.  “Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly, but carry a big stick.”

In a message more tailored for his domestic audience than the leaders of Israel sitting before him -- especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak -- Obama, who won the presidency promising to end the war in Iraq, noted his “deeply-held preference for peace over war.”

Referring to wounded U.S. troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan, he said it was “part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I only use force when the time and circumstances demand it.”

After asking for breathing room, Obama made remarks more along the lines of what Netanyahu may have hoped, noting that “Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States. … I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.”

That includes all ways American power could be leveraged, he said: political, diplomatic, and economic efforts, “and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”

Speaking to a more international audience, Obama said, “Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

The president pledged that he would “not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan192012

Israel Says No Imminent Decision on Attacking Iran

Tara Todras-Whitehill-Pool/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- If Israel does have plans to conduct a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak made that declaration Wednesday as suspicions grow that Iran is getting close to developing an atomic bomb.

Iran, which has long called for the destruction of Israel, ratcheted up tensions last week by accusing its enemy and the U.S. of assassinating a leading nuclear scientist.

According to Barak, a decision to launch a preemptive attack on Iran is "very far off."

Whether that's true or not is debatable, since Israel might be counting on the element of surprise if it goes ahead with unilateral action, a decision Washington doesn't want its ally to make.

The White House prefers to see how toughened sanctions against Iran work out before taking the last resort.

In 1981, Israel acted unilaterally to destroy then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's Osiraq nuclear reactor in an airstrike, crippling the regime's nascent nuclear program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov042010

Barak on Borrowed Time?

Photo Courtesy - PMO[dot]gov[il](TEL-AVIV, Israel) -- The opening shots in what promises to be a brutal political dog fight were fired Wednesday night, as two senior members of Ehud Barak’s ailing Labour Party publicly signaled their intention to oust him as the party’s leader. Many see it as a coordinated attack that spells the beginning of the end for Israel’s defence minister.

“The only position I haven’t held is punching bag” Barak complained on radio Thursday.

On Wednesday, one of the two Labour Party figures, Ofer Eini, the leader of Israel’s main labor union, called Barak an “idiot” on television, referring to a scandal involving Barak's wife. The other Labour Party figure, Benjamin Ben Eliezer, called for the election of an outsider to revitalize the party.

Despite his international profile, particularly in the U.S., Barak is deeply unpopular in Israel. He is fabulously rich and has a reputation for arrogance and vindictiveness. The Labour Party he leads is slowly dying, holding only 13 of the 120 Knesset seats. It used to be the driving force of Israelis politics and the party once led by Rabin.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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