Netanyahu: I have not yet decided whether to strike at Iran

Asked about opposition to an attack by security chiefs, prime minister says ‘the political echelon’ makes the decisions, the professionals carry them out

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking Tuesday. (Screenshot: Channel 2)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking Tuesday. (Screenshot: Channel 2)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night that he had not yet decided whether to order military intervention to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive.

When the time did come to decide, he added, however, objections from military and security chiefs would not prevent him and his government colleagues from ordering a military strike should they deem it necessary.

“I’ve not made a decision yet,” he told Channel 2 News. But he then invoked Israel’s 1981 air strike to destroy Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, Iraq.

Menachem Begin, the prime minister of the time, made the decision to attack despite the opposition of Israel’s security chiefs, he noted. And it would always be the case, he said, that “the political echelon” would make such decisions. It was the job of “the professional echelon” — the IDF and security services — to carry them out.

The prime minister said much the same in a second interview on Channel 10. In both interviews, it was put to him that Israel’s security chiefs, including Chief of the General Staff Benny Gantz, were not convinced of the need for Israeli military intervention. “It’s correct that there should be such a debate,” Netanyahu said on Channel 10. “But the appropriate forum,” he said, was behind closed doors and “not in the media.”

Gantz himself said Tuesday that the IDF was “prepared, and ready to act” and that, for the IDF, the oft-repeated statement that “all options are on the table” is “not a slogan, it’s a work plan.”

Channel 10 claimed earlier this week and again on Tuesday that all of Israel’s current security chiefs were “vehemently opposed” to an Israeli military strike at this stage. Several former Israeli security chiefs have repeatedly warned against a premature Israeli strike at Iran.

Netanyahu said he would be only too pleased were the international community to succeed in thwarting Iran’s drive to the bomb via sanctions and non-military methods. But “as of this moment,” he said, while sanctions “have hurt the Iranian economy,” they haven’t pushed back the Iranian drive by “so much as a millimeter.”

He also said Israel would not subcontract its existential security concerns to its friends — “not even the best of them,” like the US.

Both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romeny, with whom he met twice on Sunday, had publicly stated that Israel had the right to defend itself as it sees fit, Netanyahu said.


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