Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak on Iran, U.S., and war

Israel’s ability to withstand [an Iranian attack] and not to the existence of Israel.”

On the likely cost to Israel of an attack on Iran:
Haaretz reports that Barak criticized what he called a “campaign of fear” concerning the consequences of a strike on Iran.
When you hear a senior journalist tell the public that there may be 100 thousand dead, or when a mainstream newspaper claims Israel may be destroyed, or when an important MK [member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament] says the cemeteries won’t be enough [to bury the dead], I say — what is this about? [We are witness] panic mongering at its height even though we are the strongest [country] in the region and will remain so for the foreseeable future. A war is no picnic, but in any scenario there won’t be 50,000 or 5,000 or even 500 dead.

For a year now, the Obama administration has worried about an Israeli unilateral action against Iran. On 3 October, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Israel for the purpose of receiving assurances from Israel that Israel would not act alone, and that the United States would be informed well in advance on any Israeli military action:

Haaretz quotes American officials who were briefed about Panetta’s visit that the two Israeli leaders only answered Panetta’s questions regarding Israel’s intentions toward Iran in a general manner.
Panetta raised the Iranian issue in his talks in Israel with both Netanyahu and Barak. He sought not only to hear about Israel’s intentions but also to underline that the U.S. was interested in full coordination with Israel on the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat. The American defense secretary hinted that the Americans did not want to be surprised by Israel. For their parts, however, Netanyahu and Barak avoided providing a clear response, answering vaguely and in general terms.

On the assurances Panetta was asking Israel to give:

“This is a much more complicated and muti-faceted issue. We have nothing but great respect for the U.S. government. The description [of Panetta’s view] as given in the newspapers in not complete and not exhaustive. The State of Israel is sovereign. We re not alone in the world, and we would have preferred ‘The work of the righteous is done by others’ [a reference to a saying by the Old Sages], but a country also needs to prepare for less convenient possibilities and it needs to mobilize it spiritual strength and leadership in order to make decisions.”
Barak was asked about the possibility of making a decision on attacking Iran in the face of opposition from the military and the intelligence services:
“In my various posts I’ve already seen all the possible permutations, as long as one thing remains constant: the role of the military is to prepare the plans. It is important that the political echelon listen very carefully to what the operational and intelligence echelons have to say, but at the end it is the political echelon that has the responsibility for the decision.”