Israel’s opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, who until last week served as deputy prime minister to Benjamin Netanyahu, gave a second hint on Tuesday morning that the prime minister intends to launch a military strike against Iran.
Mofaz, who led his Kadima party out of the coalition last week, indicated in an Army Radio interview, while being careful not to say anything overly specific, that the prime minister had recruited Tzachi Hanegbi — a former MK and minister — to the Likud from Kadima in order to bolster support for an Iran attack. Hanegbi’s defection from Kadima to the Likud, announced on Monday, was not only a case of “political corruption,” Mofaz said, but also related to wider national security matters, with “the security of the state at stake.”
“This was cynically taking advantage of the holy of holies of Israel’s security,” Mofaz said.
As for his own position on Iran, Mofaz said, that “any attack would be premature and unwarranted before all the existing possibilities [for thwarting Iran] have been exhausted.”
Earlier Tuesday, Hanegbi called Mofaz’s comments “fascinating and amazing… but fictional.”
On Monday, Mofaz had given a first hint of Netanyahu’s ostensible Iran planning, declaring that Kadima wanted no part in “operational adventures” planned by Netanyahu, which he said would endanger Israelis.
“Kadima will not set out on operational adventures that will endanger the future of our young women and young men and the future of the citizens of Israel in the State of Israel,” said Mofaz, a former chief of the General Staff and defense minister.
Mofaz was speaking after a bid by four members of his party to rejoin the Netanyahu coalition had been stymied. He is now working to evict the rebels from Kadima.
It was Hanegbi who had tried to arrange the larger, unsuccessful Kadima breakaway bid, a move for which he was to be rewarded with a ministerial post in the Netanyahu government. It is not now clear whether that ministerial post will now be offered to him.
Hanegbi is widely reported to be a firm supporter of Israeli military intervention to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons drive, and was said on Israel’s Channel 2 news on Monday night to be anxious to join the government in order to ensure that Netanyahu did not get cold feet about such intervention.
Mofaz and his Kadima party were part of Netanyahu’s coalition for just 70 days — from May 8 until Mofaz bolted last week. The overt reason for the rupture of the short-lived partnership was the failure of Netanyahu’s Likud and Mofaz’s Kadima to agree on legislation for conscripting ultra-Orthodox Jews. But behind the scenes, Channel 2 reported, the two were also deeply at odds over how to thwart Iran.
When he joined the coalition in May, Channel 2 said, the Iranian-born Mofaz made clear that he could not promise to support a decision to attack Iran. Israel’s attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, has reportedly advised Netanyahu that he would need a majority in the full cabinet — rather than in any smaller ministerial forum — for such an attack.
Since Mofaz was not promising support, and since other potential Kadima ministers might be similarly unsupportive, Channel 2 said, Netanyahu postponed until November planned appointments of any other Kadima leaders as cabinet ministers. Those planned appointments became irrelevant when Kadima left the coalition.
The conclusion drawn in the Channel 2 report was that Netanyahu needed to be certain he would have a cabinet majority for an attack on Iran in the September-October period.
Mofaz said in his Tuesday interview that the Iran issue was not the cause of Kadima’s decision to join the coalition, or the decision to leave it. Those decisions revolved around the issue of universal conscription, he said.
Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he believes sanctions on Iran are not working. He protested in April that stalemated P5+1 talks with Iran were simply giving Iran “a freebie” to continue its nuclear weapons program. And he had warned a month earlier, in an address to the AIPAC lobby, that “There’s been plenty of talk recently about the costs of stopping Iran. I think it’s time to talk about the costs of not stopping Iran.”
Following last week’s terror attack on a bus full of Israelis in Bulgaria, Netanyahu declared Iran was responsible, and said: “The most dangerous state on earth must not attain the most dangerous weapon.”