Mideast analysts are busy trying to divine the meaning behind Israeli Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s announcement that he will retire from politics.
“[Barak] has been the architect of the options vis-a-vis Iran,” former Ambassador and NBC Middle East diplomacy analyst Dennis Ross said told Andrea Mitchell on Monday. “He has been the one who basically has outlined why it has to be dealt with.” Ross suggested that the timing of Barak’s announcement could imply that he doesn’t see military action against Iran–-a focal point of his agenda–-in Israel’s near future.
“It would be surprising if it was going to happen soon that, facing one of Israel’s most momentous decisions in its history, he would want to take a back seat,” NBC’s Martin Fletcher told Andrea Mitchell Monday from Tel Aviv.
Barak’s decision comes after a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas was stemmed by an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire. Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley suggested that the cease-fire has empowered Iran. “[It is] viewed by many as proof that Israel only makes concessions in the face of threats of violence, which is very much out of the Iranian playbook.”
Hadley told Andrea Mitchell that he’s skeptical that the U.S. and Israel could reach a mutually agreeable deal with Iran regarding nuclear enrichment, but if one were found, the administration could use it to test Iran’s intentions. “If it’s accepted, than that would resolve the issue or at least be a down payment toward resolving the issue short of force. If it’s rejected, it will have smoked out the Iranians as to their intentions,” Hadley said.
Barak’s Independence Party, which he founded in January 2011, had been lagging in nationwide polls ahead of the Jan. 22 election but gained momentum after the Gaza conflict. “It’s likely that he may not even make it through into the next Parliament,” Fletcher told Andrea Mitchell, but noted, “the fact that he’s going to resign as Defense Minister does not mean that could not be called back to service by Prime Minister Netanyahu if he wins elections in the future. So he’s saying he’s getting out of politics but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of his political career.”