An Israeli plan to attack Iran in 2012 was canceled due to US objections, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council confirmed Tuesday.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu seriously considered a preemptive strike on Iran, and the Americans were not excited about the idea,” Maj. Gen. (res) Giora Eiland told The Times of Israel.
The conservative Israeli political website Mida on Tuesday quoted Eiland (Hebrew link) to the effect that Israel possesses the military capacity to destroy Iran’s nuclear program at will.
According to the report, Eiland discussed the Israeli plan and Washington’s objections during a closed conference two weeks ago, saying that Netanyahu had originally intended to order a strike on Iran sometime between September and October of 2012, at the height of the US presidential campaign and around the same time as Netanyahu’s famous speech at the United Nations.
The report claimed that Netanyahu was requested by the Obama administration to call off the attack, possibly so as not to interfere with the American electoral process.
The former general was quoted as saying that although Israel is not controlled by the US, it does take American considerations into account with regard to issues of global significance.
“On many subjects Israel can perform independently,” Eiland was quoted as saying. “The construction in Jerusalem, the attack on Gaza as well as other regional issues — we don’t need to ask the Americans before we take action, even if they don’t like it. But, when an issue involves something of American interest, we cannot act against their will.”
However, “changing times” could allow for an Israeli strike in the future, Eiland reportedly said, also noting that in light of Washington’s apparent lack of appetite for military action in Syria, the chances of an American strike in Iran were slim.
Speaking with The Times of Israel, Eiland distanced himself from the statements attributed to him by Mida.
“The quotes are rife with inaccuracies,” Eiland said, although he didn’t specify further. However, he did confirm that an attack had been mulled by the Israeli prime minister.
“At any rate, I don’t feel like getting into this discussion; there’s nothing new here,” he concluded.
According to reports, Israel’s security chiefs vetoed a plan by Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak to attack Iran in late 2010.
In August, Amos Yadlin, who served as chief of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate from 2006 to 2010, claimed US opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program may be abating.
“The American stance on an Israeli strike against Iran has changed dramatically recently,” Yadlin said.
“In 2012 the [Americans'] red light was as red as it can get, the brightest red,” Yadlin said in an interview with Army Radio. “But the music I’m hearing lately from Washington says, ‘If this is truly an overriding Israeli security interest, and you think you want to strike,’ then the light hasn’t changed to green, I think, but it’s definitely yellow.”
Yadlin is thought to be close to parts of the US defense establishment. He served as Israel’s military attache in Washington from 2004 to 2006, and was a Kay Fellow in Israeli national security at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2011.
The US and its allies fear Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies, saying its atomic program is meant for peaceful purposes only.
In efforts to get Iran to account for its nuclear ambitions, Obama and other Western leaders remain publicly committed to diplomacy though they stress military options against Iranian nuclear sites are not off the table.
Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report