Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday commented on accusations leveled at him by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relating to the role he plays in Israeli relations with the United States.
Barak said in a statement that as part of his role as defense minister he is required to work towards boosting ties with Washington and especially defense ties.
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"Efforts to ensure Israel's unique military edge rely on its special relations with the Pentagon, the administration and Congress' bi-partisan support of Israel," the statement said. "We must not compromise this support by steps that show Israel aligning itself with one side in US politics."
It was further stated that "The minister is working both in Israel and in the US in accordance with government policy in order to defuse tensions and strengthen US support of Israel's security and its positions. It is widely acknowledged that this activity by the defense minister has positive outcomes and he intends to pursue it alongside the other diplomatic and defense officials."
Barak and Netanyahu (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Meanwhile, sources close to Barak insist there is no crisis between the defense minister and the prime minister. "As far as the defense minister is concerned there is no rift," one source said."
The sources highlighted a line of issues that warrant Israeli communication with the Americans. "When Israel needs special assistance for the Iron Dome or Magic Wand, Israel and the defense minister turn to the US," one source said. "When an angry mob is threatening to hurt Israelis at the Cairo embassy, Israel turns to the US for help."
Barak's associates also addressed the joint Israeli-US military drill scheduled to take place next month. "Israel is working closely with the US on this."
"Israel maintains its responsibility for security at trying times. However, in order to avoid being relatively isolated "the day after" we need to lay the groundwork for trust and cooperation with the administration, Pentagon and Congress and that is exactly what the defense minister is doing and has been doing."
Meanwhile, Likud officials are standing by the prime minister and coming out against Barak. Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat on Wednesday described the minister's recent activity as "desperate attempts to survive."
She further added, "Barak currently has no chance of making it past the election threshold; that is why he is trying to gather votes in various ways. It's unacceptable that he act this way while staying in the government." Livnat said she had warned Netanyahu of Barak in the past. "I was the one who several months ago demanded to strip him of his exclusive powers in the matter of the settlers' future."
"Barak apparently realized that no one is going to save him a place in the Likud and that the prime minister won’t promise him the defense minister post. He has since been trying to distance himself from the government." Barak's associates said in response that he has never asked for a guaranteed sport in the Likud and described the accusations as "ridiculous."
Moran Azulay contributed to this report
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