Barak upbeat on Lebanon war’s fallout

Last summer’s war in Lebanon boosted Israel’s regional deterrence, Ehud Barak told the Israeli commission investigating the government’s handling of the conflict.

On Monday, the Winograd Commission published statements Barak made to the commission last November talking about his decision as prime minister in 2000 to withdraw Israeli troops unilaterally from southern Lebanon – a move widely seen as having boosted local Hezbollah guerrillas.

Barak said he believed the fact that Israel was not an occupying force gave it legitimacy when it responded to a deadly Hezbollah border raid on July 12, 2006 with a massive offensive in Lebanon. He also argued that the war had boosted Israel’s regional deterrence.

“I think Hezbollah took a severe beating and lost fighters, infrastructure, etc.,” Barak told the panel. “The good news is that Israel was and remains the mightiest country within 1,500 kilometers of Jerusalem, and everyone realizes this.”

Barak, who is now defense minister, later called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation over his management of the war.

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