The overwhelming majority of Israel’s political, military and intelligence leadership reportedly believes the time is not ripe for an Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and shares the assessment that an Israeli strike would, at best, merely set back rather than destroy the Iranian program.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that a decision on striking Iran will be made in the next few months, and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week that it was time to gear up to put the Iranian program to “a decisive end,” this assessment is not shared by President Shimon Peres, the chief of staff of the Israeli army and his predecessor, the head of the Mossad intelligence service and his predecessor, at least five of the most senior ministers in the government and the leader of the opposition, Kadima party chairman Shaul Mofaz, respected Israeli media analysts said Saturday night.
The issue is headline news because the former head of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service, Yuval Diskin, on Friday publicly branded Netanyahu and Barak as “unfit” to lead the country in confronting the Iranian nuclear threat, and wrong in their approach to the danger, sparking a political firestorm.
Diskin served for six years as Shin Bet chief until a year ago, and so worked closely with the two leaders in whom he said he has “no faith.” Working alongside him, as head of the Mossad, was Meir Dagan, a lifelong intelligence veteran who has repeatedly warned against the “stupid” notion of Israeli military intervention at this stage. According to Emmanuel Rosen, a respected analyst for Channel 10 news, Gabi Ashkenazi, the IDF’s chief of staff until last year, “essentially shares” Diskin’s assessment.
Peres, Netanyahu’s deputy prime ministers Moshe Yaalon, Silvan Shalom and Eli Yishai, as well as other top ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, also feel this is not the time to strike at Iran, Rosen said on Saturday night, adding that the consequence would be merely to set the Iranians back a little, while ostensibly legitimizing a subsequent accelerated push by Tehran to the bomb.
Alon Ben-David, the TV station’s military analyst, who has been given wide access of late to the Israeli Air Force’s training for a possible attack, said Saturday night that the current chief of staff, Benny Gantz, also opposes an attack at this juncture, as does the current Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo.
“No decision has been taken to attack Iran,” Ben-David said. But he added that the “window of opportunity” was this summer — after the next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers, at which Iran, he said, would presumably give “an unsatisfactory response” to Western demands for the guarantees and openness necessary to ensure that it was not pursuing, and would not pursue, a nuclear weapons program.