TEL AVIV -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is due to arrive in Washington on Monday bearing two warnings for American policymakers:
- Sanctions won't thwart Iran's push for nuclear weapons, and
- Israel will strike directly at Lebanese government institutions if Hezbollah launches rockets at Israeli towns.
...Barak is ...the closest confidant of his former political rival, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, making what he says on matters of peace and war particularly relevant for the Obama administration. While in Washington, Barak is due to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and various intelligence officials.
On Iran, Barak said Israel and the United States share the same "diagnosis" that Iran is "determined to reach nuclear military capability." But he acknowledged "there are differences about what could be done about it, how it should be done, and what [is] the timeframe within which certain steps could be taken."
Among the timing issues are questions of how long to give sanctions the chance to work and the cutoff point after which it would no longer be feasible to neutralize Iran's uranium enrichment program with a military strike. ...Barak said "...at a certain point, we should realize that sanctions cannot work."
The United States and the United Nations have enacted recent rounds of sanctions, with the European Union expected to follow suit as early as Monday.
...in Obama's December speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, ...Obama said there will be times when "the use of force" is "not only necessary but morally justified."
Another area where Israel believes force may be necessary is Lebanon. ...Hezbollah ...has built an arsenal of 40,000 missiles and rockets. Barak warned that the next time violence breaks out, Israel would strike directly at the Lebanese government, which he said is allowing Hezbollah to rearm.
If Hezbollah fires a rocket into Tel Aviv, "we will not run after each Hezbollah terrorist or launcher. . . . We will see it as legitimate to hit any target that belongs to the Lebanese state, not just to Hezbollah."
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said Israel is "trying to justify a war against Lebanon that it could launch when it wishes" and has complained of Israeli surveillance flights over Lebanese territory.
Tensions between Israel and Lebanon have escalated in recent days amid reports that Lebanese activists plan to dispatch aid ships to the Gaza Strip in violation of an Israeli blockade. Barak called the aid ships an "unnecessary provocation." ...