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Israel's calculus on Iran: Shaped by leaders' youth in daring commando unit?

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In a country where mandatory conscription makes an Israeli's army unit a future resume builder like one's alma mater in the US, serving in Sayeret Matkal is roughly the equivalent to attending an Ivy League school. From the military to politics and business, they form the corps of the Israeli elite.

Barak legendary for daring missions

Barak, who went on to become army chief of staff and Israeli prime minister, is seen by many as the leading hawk in Israel’s government pushing for a strike on Iran. He has been outspoken on the possibility of a preemptive strike in recent weeks, suggesting that Israel might not accede to US request to hold fire because "later might be too late."

Netanyahu is seen as more hesitant to order a lone strike, even though he has likened the Iranian regime to Nazi Germany. Many Israelis, however, see Netanyahu as very influenced on defense issues by his old commander from Sayeret Matkal, Mr. Barak.

"I am sure when they close the door and are alone, Netanyhau says, Sir!" jokes Uri Dromi, a former air force pilot and a former Israeli government spokesperson.

Barak became a legend in the unit for taking on seemingly impossible missions that others shied away from. He was at his best under fire, Yatom says.

Barak commanded the daring 1972 operation to free 100 hostages on a hijacked Sabena passenger plane. Barak, Netanyahu, and 14 other Sayeret Matkal members disguised as mechanics broke onto the plane, killing two Arab hijackers but none of the passengers. An iconic picture shows Barak in his mechanic disguise alongside the newly freed passengers.

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