Iran deal would greatly reduce Israel’s military option, ex-advisers say

Giora Eiland: Practically speaking, ‘a deal shuts the option down’; Uzi Dayan: It would be reduced; Dore Gold: We’ll do what’s necessary

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

An F-15I fighter jets flies over the air force's Hatzerim base. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
An F-15I fighter jets flies over the air force's Hatzerim base. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Two former national security advisers told The Times of Israel Sunday that once the six world powers sign an agreement with Iran, Israel’s military option will be significantly less likely to be exercised, if not completely off the table.

“Practically speaking, [a deal] shuts the [Israeli military] option down,” said Maj. Gen. (res) Giora Eiland, who served as head of the National Security Council under prime minister Ariel Sharon. He added, “It doesn’t matter what we think about the deal. Israel won’t be able to do a thing.”

Acting against the signed word of all of the world’s powers, Eiland said, would put Israel front and center as the world’s menace and would not be feasible as long as Iran abided by the agreement. A “crude violation,” however, if provable, would offer a chance for a strike, he said.

Three days of talks between the P5+1 countries and Iran ended in Geneva on Saturday night without an agreement, but with US Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues declaring that an accord was close, and that the talks would resume on November 20 in an effort to finalize it. Israel has castigated the apparent terms of the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protesting Sunday that it would not require Iran to dismantle so much as “a single centrifuge.”

Former head of the National Security Council Giora Eiland (Photo credit: Flash ())
Former head of the National Security Council Giora Eiland (photo credit: Flash90)

Eiland’s colleague and predecessor at the post of national security adviser, Maj. Gen. (res) Uzi Dayan, agreed that Iran’s fidelity to an agreement would be pivotal. But he asserted that, even if Iran abided by the terms, a bad deal — signed by the US and protested against by Israel — would allow some wiggle room for a military strike. “The probability of the military option would be reduced, but not erased,” he said.

The two spoke hours after the three days of Geneva talks concluded. The nuts and bolts of the actual proposals have largely been concealed from sight, but most reports indicate that the preliminary deal under discussion would be of a reciprocal nature, with the world powers offering some sort of sanctions relief in return for a temporary cessation in enrichment of uranium and perhaps an Iranian commitment to remove all of its 20-percent enriched uranium from the country.

Uzi Dayan, a former general and nephew of Moshe Dayan (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)
Former general Uzi Dayan (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The heavy water reactor in Arak, used to create plutonium, has emerged as one public sticking point.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who told France-Inter radio that “we want a deal… but not a sucker’s deal,” said France was “absolutely firm” in its demand that construction of the reactor be halted.

This, along with an apparent readiness to sign a preliminary deal that left Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges in place — essentially allowing the regime to keep most of its cards in its hands and offering it a spot within sprinting distance of the bomb — has prompted a series of bitter critiques from Netanyahu.

Known to admire the Harvard-educated Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt — the man who advised, when still vice president, to speak softly and carry a large stick — Netanyahu has been forced by the international community, and perhaps by nature, to adopt a contrary approach.

His angry statements have been broadcast around the world: a “bad deal,” a “historic mistake,” an “egregious historic error,” he ruled in recent days. But the stick, ostentatiously waved in recent weeks, is not likely to be used or even brandished if negotiations spawn a signed agreement, the two ex-national security advisers indicated.

Dore Gold (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Dore Gold (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A Netanyahu confidant, however, who traveled with him to New York and Washington in October, and stated that he did not wish to directly address the matter of military capabilities, nonetheless indicated that Israel would ultimately retain the right and ability to act. “Obviously, Israel is not signatory to any of these deals and the prime minister has said so,” said Dore Gold, the President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

“If Israel comes under threat from Iran after the deal,” he added, “then certainly we will have to do what is necessary to protect ourselves.”

Gold suggested that Obama and Netanyahu both agree that Israel sees the Iranian threat differently from its vantage point amid the Middle East, within missile range, and added that “Israel has to embed its security in its understanding of the region and the threats it immediately faces.”

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