Barak Tries To Step Up Timetable on Iran War; Lieberman in China Pushing Sanctions
March 20, 2012 • 8:10AM

Benjamin Netanyahu's "octet," the eight members of the inner cabinet that Israeli journalist Ben Caspit identified as moving closer and closer to unanimous support for an Israeli strike on Iran, is heavily deployed on the Iran war issue. On March 19 at the Knesset, Defense Minister Ehud Barak again declaring that time is running out to strike Iran before the nuclear installations are too heavily protected. Speaking to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset (Parliament), Barak said "The world, including the current U.S. administration, understands and accepts that Israel necessarily views the threat differently than they do, and that ultimately, Israel is responsible for taking the decisions related to its future, its security and its destiny," i.e., will take preemptive military action without any international agreements.

Repeating his threat that Israel has to militarily strike before Iran is able to put its nuclear facilities deep underground or in hardened sites, Barak said that Iran "is steadily approaching maturation and is verging on a 'zone of immunity' — a position from which the Iranian regime could complete its program without effective disruption, at its convenience." Therefore, Barak insisted that the world has to move even faster with more debilitating sanctions against Iran until Iran agrees to stop its nuclear activities.

While other inner cabinet members, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz are quoted pushing these tougher sanctions, the fact remains that the Israeli strike can happen at any moment that the British want.

Foreign Minister Lieberman has been in China since March 15, meeting with top officials, and was interviewed by Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's leading daily about the war on Iran.

"If, god forbid, a war with breaks out with Iran, it will be a nightmare. Everyone will be involved, including the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia," Avigdor Lieberman told Yedioth Ahronoth. "We must make every effort so that the international community will take responsibility and stop Iran.... The Chinese have a lot of influence over Iran, and their position during the negotiations in April will be crucial." Lieberman stated. "Despite the differences of opinion, the Chinese treat (Israel) with respect. They are very pragmatic, and this gives me hope. They are very concerned by the Iranian issue as well, because ... Such an irresponsible regime if it obtains nuclear weapons poses a threat to the entire world."

On March 17, Ha'aretz quoted Lieberman saying that "he agreed with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton," that the P5+1 talks "'are the last chance for Iran to solve the matter peacefully.'"

Finance Minister Steinitz praised the decision by SWIFT, the world's largest electronic payment system to cut off the Iranian banks that have been blacklisted by the European Union, as "a major blow to the Iranian economy." Without the SWIFT facility, Steinitz said Iran would be forced to accept only cash or gold, "and when we are dealing with billions this is impossible."

In the view of Netanyahu's war government, no sanctions are tough enough.