Comptroller to grade Israel’s handling of Iran nuclear threat

Matanyahu Englman says the issue is already ‘on his desk,’ following criticism from former defense officials about nearsighted policy, lack of Plan B

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman at a conference in Herzliya, December 7, 2021. (Marc Israel Salem)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman at a conference in Herzliya, December 7, 2021. (Marc Israel Salem)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said Tuesday that his office has started looking into Israel’s preparedness to deal with Iran’s nuclear program amid recent criticism from former officials of how leaders have handled the matter.

“The matter is on my desk,” Engelman said at a conference in Herzliya organized by the Walla news website. “We have begun a review of this matter with the perpsective that it is a central danger.”

“Part of Israel’s strength is that everyone is subject to criticism, including the security establishment, the IDF and our intelligence bodies,” Engelman noted.

The comptroller also said that his office will examine cyber threats to the country, focusing on information held by the tax authority.

Englman said the comprehensive body of information the authority holds on every citizen is a “great risk” if it is not properly protected. He noted that aside from the personal details held by the authority, tax revenues also influence the national budget and government income.

As talks in Europe aim to revive the unraveling 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Israel has increased its diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing the US from reversing its exit of the pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or, if it must be saved, then making sure it contains greatly tightened terms limiting Iran.

Israel has repeatedly and publicly vowed that, if necessary, it will act alone in a strike to demolish Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

TV cameras in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

However, the ex-head of IDF Military Intelligence research, Danny Citrinowicz, in a recent interview with The Times of Israel characterized Jerusalem’s policy on Iran as a “failure,” and lamented his government’s decision to ignore a shift taking place in the Islamic Republic that he and his colleagues had identified.

By encouraging the Trump administration to withdraw from the deal and to impose “maximum pressure” sanctions against Tehran, Israel helped dramatically weaken a more moderate force they saw in motion and blunt the impact of that shift, the retired major argued.

More criticism has come from former prime minister Ehud Barak who in an opinion piece published Sunday by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said he did not believe that Israel or the US had a viable military plan to strike Iran’s nuclear program and called the American decision to leave the nuclear deal without one “delusional.”

Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at Channel 12 news conference in Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

This mistake was then compounded by Israel failing to put together with the US a “Plan B in the form of a surgical military operation,” he wrote.

Barak, who reportedly favored a military strike when he served as Netanyahu’s defense minister early last decade, put the blame squarely on Netanyahu, who was prime minister for the last decade until being voted out in March.

The landmark nuclear accord was initially agreed on between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

But it began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump, with strong encouragement from then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pulled out and reimposed sanctions, while Iran began publicly breaching the deal. Since then, Iran has stepped up its nuclear activities — amassing a stockpile of highly enriched uranium that goes well beyond the bounds of the accord.

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