Debating the merits of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons is legitimate, but the recent chatter over timing and capabilities puts Israel at risk, said former Mossad Chief Maj.-Gen. (Ret.) Danny Yatom on Sunday.
“Everybody agrees that a nuclear armed Iran is the worst possible outcome. The debate is over when to strike and if Israel is capable of carrying it out effectively. This, I believe, should not be publicly discussed and doing so harms Israel’s security,” Yatom said in an interview to Army Radio.
Yatom’s statements came out as discussion of a possible Israeli strike reached new heights last week.
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy added his voice Saturday to the chorus of ex-security chiefs warning against an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and also said he doubted such a strike would take place.
“It would not be desirable for Israel to act alone,” he said in a Channel 2 interview. “I don’t think it will happen.”
Last Wednesday, Halevy said in a widely cited Israel Radio interview that “if I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks.” Halevy, who is also a former national security adviser and ambassador, added that Israel’s threats of military action had a certain “credibility” and “seriousness.”
In his Saturday interview, he reiterated that the next few weeks would be “critical.”
He also said that the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear drive constituted “perhaps the gravest threat” that the state of Israel has ever faced, but that he did not consider it to be “existential” because it was his belief that “Israel cannot be destroyed as a state.”
Halevy’s successor as Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, has been publicly criticizing talk of an Israeli strike ever since he ended his term last year. Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin has also denounced the idea. And Israel’s current military and security chiefs are reported to oppose an Israeli strike at this stage.
Halevy was speaking a day after another former intelligence chief said that an Israeli military strike on Iran may be just weeks or at most a couple of months away, while stressing that he personally did not think the time was right for an Israeli attack.
“It seems to me,” said Aharon Zeevi Farkash, former head of IDF military intelligence, “that [an Israeli attack] could come in the near future… that is, in weeks or a couple of months.”
Farkash, also interviewed on Channel 2, added that “the Iranians have to understand” that if they don’t halt their nuclear drive, “they will ultimately have to absorb a blow to their main military sites, from an international coalition, or from the US or perhaps from Israel.”
Personally, Farkash added, he did not think the time was yet right for Israel to resort to military action. The decision-makers should “think twice,” he said.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had not yet decided whether to order military intervention to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive.
When the time did come to decide, he added, objections from military and security chiefs would not prevent him and his government colleagues from ordering a military strike should they deem it necessary.
Haaretz reported Friday that in a closed meeting last week, Netanyahu criticized security establishment officials, hinting that they are primarily concerned about avoiding having to take responsibility for their actions.
“I’ve had enough of this atmosphere,” he reportedly said. “It’s also felt in other discussions [on Iran], people keep showing me presentations prepared as if for an investigative committee. I’ve told them to stop with these presentations, stop speaking on protocol, and get to the point…. If an investigative committee is formed, I’ll go and say that I am responsible.”
Yatom said he didn’t believe that critics of the strike were speaking out of fear of investigative committees and sincerely hoped it wasn’t the case.
“I know these people and am sure they are talking out of loyalty and conviction,” he added. “In any case, the only people whose opinion is truly important are the chief of staff, the IDF intelligence chief and the commander of the IAF. Those are the people who will have to carry out the attack.”
Yatom dismissed suggestions that there was a single force behind all the critical voices.
Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani said that Israel’s saber-rattling is a sign of fear. “Today, the Zionists have uttered words against Iran and Hezbollah bigger than their mouths, but reading between the lines one can find out that Zionists feel fear,” Larijani told an open session of parliament in Tehran on Sunday.