Following a New Yorker article that appeared Monday exposing details of the Israeli bombing of a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, the IDF chief of staff at the time flatly denied knowledge of the operation.
“This morning, I heard on the news that the IDF attacked a Syrian reactor,” said Gabi Ashkenazi, speaking at an economic conference Tuesday. “On my life, I haven’t heard a single thing about it, and I don’t think it should be discussed.”
Ashkenazi served as IDF chief of General Staff from 2007 until 2011, when he entered the private sector as head of an energy company.
According to the New Yorker expose, on September 6, 2007, Israel dropped 17 tons of explosives on the North Korean-built reactor in Syria. Intelligence for the operation was purloined from the Viennese home of a Syrian nuclear scientist, and the operation went ahead after the United States declined to strike the reactor.
The author of the New Yorker piece, David Makovsky, told Army Radio on Tuesday that the Israeli decision never to publicly acknowledge striking at the reactor was a “stroke of inspiration” for the planners before the attack. They realized that if Israel did not brag about the strike, President Bashar Assad would not be publicly humiliated, would be free to deny that his defenses had been penetrated, and might choose not to respond militarily. And so it proved, noted Makovsky, an American former Israel-based journalist, who now works for the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy.
Then prime minister Ehud Olmert has never publicly acknowledged ordering the strike. The closest official Israel came to doing so, indeed, was when then opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu went on Israel Television after the attack and said he had been informed of the details in advance.