An advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has confirmed former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's assertion that there was nothing controversial in correspondence between the two leaders. (Graphic by Dayang Norazhar/The Mole)
KUALA LUMPUR: News of the controversy surrounding correspondence between Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has reached Israel, and prompted an Israeli journalist to go to the source to clear the air.
In a post at the website of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz yesterday, diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid acknowledged the controversy over the letters in Malaysia, saying Ehud Barak was “the subject of a mutual mudslinging battle between the opposition and the ruling coalition in the run-up to elections in the Muslim state.”
Ravid said that opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had “revealed the existence of the letters as part of his attempt to defend himself against attacks by the ruling party that claimed that he supports normalization of ties with Israel and denies the rights of the Palestinians.”
After summarising the controversy surrounding Anwar’s statements in The Wall Street Journal, and subsequent claims made by the opposition regarding the Malaysian government’s relations with Israel, Ravid said he sought out Ehud Barak – who is now Israel’s Defense Minister – to get his side of the story.
“Barak was not aware of the current political scandal in Malaysia,” Ravid said, “but he did remember the letters.”
Ravid said he had been told by one of Barak’s advisors that his letter to Mahathir contained “praise for the Malaysian people and for the Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad over his courage in the international arena.”
Barak’s advisor also told Ravid, “Mahathir wrote in response that he hoped that the Israeli leadership would have the courage to take the corresponding steps in order to achieve peace with the Palestinians.”
“The content of the letters was general,” he added, “and there was nothing there that could embarrass Mahathir.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said yesterday that Mahathir's letter to Barak would be published today or tomorrow to end negative speculation.