Just caught this piece on Talking Points Memo:
Ehud Barak, former prime minister of Israel, current defense minister, says this:
"I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel."
The claim at TPM, not reproduced in the above Reuters' link, is that Netanyahu has grudgingly agreed with Barak.
Uh, folks, this seems to be huge. The great dream of neocons like Cheney, Bolton, and others to bomb the shit out of Iran would appear to have been devastated. Put this together with the announcement about the new approach to missile defense against Iran yesterday, and you have another terrific example of Obama making a big, big difference.
First, the statement by Barak is the closest you will ever get to an acknowledgment that Israel possesses a sizable nuclear arsenal. Iran does not pose an existential threat if an attack by Iran will lead to a massive counterattack by Israel that will annihilate Iran. Barak's statement is an implicit acknowledgment that mutually assured destruction is working in the middle east, much as it did to keep the peace during the cold war.
I consider that to be huge. That elephant in the room, if not called out by name, has at least received a head nod.
Second, if it is true as TPM suggests that Bibi is going along with this, then the worst fears of Israeli adventurism against Iran are basically gone. The saber rattling we lived with during the last two years of the Bush administration are suddenly vanished.
So why now? After all these worries about either a US attack on Iran or an Israeli attack on Iran, why now does Barak acknowledge the obvious - that Iran does not pose an existential threat? On the very day that Obama announces a new approach to missile defense against Iran?
Well, the realists seem to be triumphing over the neocons that held all the sway with Cheney and W, and I think Barak is being forced to acknowledge that.
Realism 1: a few Iranian weapons with at most medium range missile delivery capability do not really worry a nuclear armed Israel with hundreds of nukes and likely good delivery systems.
Realism 2: As enunciated brilliantly by Rachel Maddow and guest Joseph Cirincione last night on the Maddow show, the Bush system that was being built would put a handful of missiles that would not work against a long ranged threat to Iran that does not exist, and would do so at a price tag of something like $5 billion. The proposed change, endorsed by Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would cost half as much and put hundreds of anti-ballistic missiles up close to medium range Iranian missiles in their boost phase, where there is actually some chance of destroying them.
(I very much like Rachel's West Wing clip here and the point in it that long range missile defense has NEVER worked and is a fools game and money pit.)
I cannot believe that in some backchannels realism 1 and realism 2 are linked. And of course, master realists Obama and Gates have triumphed over the idiocy of Cheney, Bolton, et al.
That will not stop the RWNJs and NCNJs (neocon nut jobs) from throwing out nonsense like this (directed at me after a tweet about this news):
Funny, you, Chavez and the Russians agree on Missile Defense. Maybe Bin Laden will endorse it too to complete the team.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
This NY Times link contains the key quote from Netanyahu - that he sees "eye to eye" with Barak.
Full text of Netanyahu response to Barak from NYT piece linked above -
Barak's comments were excerpted in Yedioth Thursday and drew a supportive, if more cautious, response from Netanyahu.
"I know that we see eye to eye on this challenge and on this danger. It is certainly a very great danger," he told Israel's Channel Two television.
"But I think that what the Defence minister wanted to say, something that I believe, is that the State of Israel will be able to defend itself in any situation," Netanyahu said.
"I can say to you that we must make a great effort, and are making a great effort, to persuade the international community that this problem is not just our problem."
Clearly Netanyahu's remarks are more ambiguous, but consistent with the notion that Iran does not propose an existential threat.
Also, this may have to do with the announcement:
The missile defense to be deployed against Iran is at least in part Israeli made. I sense some backroom dealing here.
Update 3: OK, this is some further interesting interpretation directed by a conservative on twitter. Credit where credit is due:
The main point is that Barak flips around as often as a fish on a hot sidewalk according to the article, but is consistent in perhaps wanting to stick a thumb in Bibi's eye. So let's see how it shakes out.