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PM's Barak and Olmert, Not Hagel, Warned Israel Becoming an Apartheid State

February 19, 2013

Just days after Lindsey Graham declared himself satisfied that Chuck Hagel did not call the U.S. State Department an "adjunct of Israel," the right-wing media machine is back with a new attack aimed at derailing the Obama defense nominee's confirmation. Citing an attendee at an April 2010 conference at Rutgers University, the Washington Free Beacon is now claiming that Hagel called Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a radical" and warned that Israel was "risking becoming an apartheid state if it didn't allow the Palestinians to form a state." But while no transcript or other source has emerged to confirm that Senator Hagel made those remarks, there is someone who did: former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
In February 2010, the celebrated Israeli war hero turned Defense Minister in Bibi Netanyahu's government issued this stark warning to the attendees of the Herzliya conference:

"As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

If Barak's language sounds familiar, that's because another Israeli Prime Minister who almost inked a peace deal with the Palestinians said much the same thing. As The Guardian reported in November 2007, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was even more pessimistic about Israel's future without a peace agreement:

Israel's prime minister issued a rare warning yesterday that his nation risked being compared to apartheid-era South Africa if it failed to agree an independent state for the Palestinians. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Ehud Olmert said Israel was "finished" if it forced the Palestinians into a struggle for equal rights.
If the two-state solution collapsed, he said, Israel would "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished". Israel's supporters abroad would quickly turn against such a state, he said.

Whether or not Chuck Hagel has branded Benjamin Netanyahu a "radical" remains to be seen. But the mudslinging between Bibi and Barak is well documented. As Haaretz reported last October, the split between the two came out into the open:

Channel 2 news reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu said: "Do you know what [Barak] has done on diplomatic matters? He went to the U.S. to stir up the dispute between us and Obama and come across as a moderate savior."

Bibi didn't end there, saying his Defense Minister criticized Netanyahu's "radical and unrealistic policies."
If the right-wing commentariat has a problem with Israel being labeled an apartheid state, they shouldn't spit their venom at President Obama's next defense chief. They can complain to Israel's last one.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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