Tags: israel | iran | obama | romney

Mitchell Barak: Israel Concerned That Stopping Iran Not a Top Priority for Obama

Thursday, 18 Oct 2012 05:36 PM

By John Bachman and Patrick Hobin

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The relationship between the administrations of Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu is not a warm one and is a source of concern for Israelis, who are not convinced that stopping a nuclear Iran is high on the priority list of President Barack Obama, Mitchell Barak told Newsmax TV.

Barak, speaking to Newsmax from Jerusalem, served as an aide to Israeli President Shimon Peres, and has worked as staff member to prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Shamir, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

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There have been some positive signs between the two allies, such as the participation in joint exercises and the Iron Dome missile defense, but the administrations are overall somewhat estranged, Barak said.

Watch the exclusive interview here.



“I’m not familiar what the decision is to participate in joint exercises, but this is an ongoing thing and, certainly, the Iron Dome missile defense system is something that President Barack Obama has personally signed off on and increased funding for due to the fact that Israel is under rocket attack on a regular basis,” he said.

“So it’s not that there is a total breakdown or a total disconnect between the administrations, it’s just not the warmest of relationships and Israel is concerned about that. And Israelis are not 100 percent convinced that stopping a nuclear Iran is high on the priority list of the U.S. administration,” Barak said.

Barak said sanctions are good but a big stick is needed to deter Iran from its nuclear pursuit.

“The sanctions are a good start but when you say that there are 11 countries like China and Russia that don’t have to abide by the sanctions and then there are other American companies that don’t have to abide by the sanctions because they already have business dealings with Iran, it really leads to believe that something’s wrong here,” he said.

“Meaning in the Israeli mind, and it may sound dramatic, it’s almost like you have the ability to bomb the tracks leading to the concentration camps but you don’t do it because you know it’s not good for business. That’s how Israelis feel. We’ve got to stop the nuclear Iran. We’ve got to stop them now. There’s no exceptions to that rule and we don’t see that taking place. We don’t see the U.S. wielding a big stick, not in the case of sanctions or in the case of a credible military threat.”

Barak appeared as an expert in a short film called “Absolutely Uncertain,” which is about Obama’s relationship with Israel.

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“I didn’t make the film so let me just make that clear,” he said. “I appeared in the film as an expert on Israeli opinion. What the film was trying to do is bring up some questions, really, more than answers about President Obama and some things in his relationship with the Israeli prime minister, which has been strained over the years, and on issues related to the Middle East.”

Barak said that despite some positive developments between the two administrations, there is a sense of being at odds.

“There’s an undercurrent that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama don’t particularly get along,” he said. “Israelis didn’t like how President Obama treated Prime Minister Netanyahu on one of his visits to the U.S. which didn’t include a great reception in the White House and wasn’t a very warm reception.”

He continued, “But, in general, it seems that Israelis are a little disappointed because right as President Obama was elected, he promised hope and change in the Middle East and actually received a Nobel Peace Prize for his Middle East peace plan which was never implemented. He asked for specific concessions which were never made and never asked for and never done like freezing the settlements for a 90-month period so that the Palestinians good come back to the negotiating table.”

“They never did,” he continued. “He’s questioned the status of Jerusalem which has really been more than has been done in the past. The status of Jerusalem and the building in settlements in Jerusalem. Israelis are not used to that. There are some things and lines that were crosses that Israelis just didn’t like.”

Despite the frostiness between the two administrations, Barak says the relationship between the two allies remains strong and that the divide is between personalities and not populations.

“It’s two personalities because the support for Israel in the Congress and the Senate is so strong and tends to be much stronger than the White House,” he said. “I don’t see that affected at all. In general, Israel has issues with the U.S. administration and administrations in the past but the groundswell of support in Congress and in the Senate and the American people is unshakable.”

Barak said Israel has to be ready for an Iranian attack and that Israelis have to take Iran for its word when it says it wants to destroy Israel.

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“We always have to be ready,” he said. “The problem is that Israel believes that there is an existential threat from a nuclear Iran. And if Iran gains nuclear capability, we just have to believe what they’ve said. Meaning that they’ve said all along that they want to destroy Israel and Israel has no right to exist.”

He continued, “So we take them at their word and Israelis are a little concerned that if they have the capability of really harming Israel with a nuclear weapon that they actually might use it. So Israelis are definitely concerned. Israelis all believe that Israel has the right to defend its population, and if that means attacking a foreign country or a foreign army or rescuing its civilian population somewhere, Israel will do it.”

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