Ahead of a key meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama, the leader of Israel has instructed his cabinet ministers not to publicly discuss their views on Iran and its nuclear program.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to prevent his government from making any unwarranted provocative statements regarding Israel’s views on Iran’s nuclear program.
According to the Associated Press, Netanyahu has made similar appeals to his ministers in the wake of the murders of Iranian nuclear scientists (acts which Teheran blamed on Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad).
Speculation has been escalating that Israel is planning to launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in an effort to thwart Teheran’s atomic energy program. Reportedly, Israel’s allies in Western Europe and the United States are alarmed by this prospect and have been trying to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid such a drastic option until all diplomatic efforts are exhausted.
Meanwhile, there appears to be disagreement within the Israeli government itself over what to do with Iran.
According to Israeli media, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has criticized President Shimon Peres for his expressed objections to attacking Iran.
Peres, a former Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, is scheduled to speak with Obama ahead of the Netanyahu meeting in Washington, and is reportedly expected to tell the US President that he is opposed to Israel launching strikes on Iran.
Although the President of Israel is strictly a ceremonial position with no power, Peres is widely admired and respected. Barak, however, is unimpressed with Peres’ recalcitrance regarding Iran.
With all due respect to various officeholders from the past and present, the rumor that there is [only] one government in Israel has also reached the United States, Barak said in private conversations, according to the Haaretz newspaper.
In the end, there is an elected [Israeli] government that makes the decisions and that is its responsibility.
Barak also referred to an incident thirty years ago when Peres opposed the bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak, when Menachem Begin was Israel’s Prime Minister.
It's the same Shimon Peres who in 1981 opposed the bombing of the reactor in Iraq, Barak reportedly said.
Peres argued then that Begin was leading us to a holocaust, and there are those who claim that, to this day, Peres thinks the attack on the reactor was a mistake. Imagine what would have happened if the Americans and their allies had attempted to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait if he had three atomic bombs. The Americans said in retrospect that Begin was farsighted.”
Haaretz noted that Barak’s direct criticism of Peres is highly unusually, given the friendly and respectful relations the two men have had.
Netanyahu is also reportedly irked by Peres’ comments – the two are expected to meet on Friday to discuss the Iranian issue.
As for Peres, his office denied reports that he is going to tell Obama that Israel should refrain from bombing Iran.