Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak raised the idea of attacking Iran in the past, but were strongly opposed by Israel’s trio of top security officials at the time, Israel’s Channel 10 reported on Sunday.
Then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, and Chief of the General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, met with Netanyahu, Barak and other members of the cabinet in a Mossad club room to discuss the issue, the report said. The scene — a social setting, with people smoking all around — was deemed by some of the participants to be inappropriate given the sensitivity of the issue being discussed, but the dramatic meeting proceeded, nonetheless.
The report did not specify when precisely the meeting took place, but it must have occurred before November 2010, when Dagan stepped down as head of the Mossad.
At the meeting, all three of the security chiefs denounced the notion of a solo Israeli strike on Iran. Ashkenazi, who was the most outspoken against the attack, was reportedly so convincing that Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) changed his position and joined ministers Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Begin and Dan Meridor in opposing the course of action that Barak and Netanyahu were trying to advance.
Barak was apparently so incensed by this meeting that he remarked that had the Ashkenazi-led General Staff been in office in 1967, “we never would have had the Six Day War” — a war in which Israel pre-empted enemy attack, and secured a rapid and dramatic victory.
According to the Channel 10 report, as a result of this meeting, Netanyahu and Barak were unsuccessful in gaining the necessary cabinet support for a pre-emptive attack on Iran.
Dagan and Diskin have since publicly castigated Netanyahu and Barak over their ostensible desire to strike at Iran. Ashkenazi has voiced more veiled criticism.
Serving security chiefs and senior government ministers today are also reportedly deeply at odds with Netanyahu and Barak over the issue of a military strike on Iran to halt its nuclear drive.
Netanyahu was asked recently about opposition to a strike from current chief of the General Staff Benny Gantz and other security chiefs, and replied that it was for the politicians to decide on policy, and for the professionals to carry it out.
Netanyahu and Barak were reported at the weekend to be close to deciding on an Israeli strike at Iran. Earlier on Sunday, by contrast, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said there was still time for sanctions to have a substantive impact.