Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, has launched a blistering attack on Mitt Romney, accusing the would-be Republican presidential candidate of playing with Israel’s destiny, “playing with our lives,” through “highly irresponsible” comments on tackling Iran’s nuclear drive.
He said Romney’s comments in a recent Washington Post oped — in which the former governor of Massachusetts criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the Iran crisis and vowed that he would take a much tougher stance if elected — amounted to “a provocative invitation to the Iranians to do their very best (to attain nuclear weapons) until Mitt Romney gets into power.”
In an interview with The Times of Israel, Halevy, who also served as Israel’s national security adviser and held several ambassadorial positions, made plain his shared determination to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, but said Romney’s approach as set out in the oped was “disastrous.”
In the March 5 piece Romney described Obama as America’s “most feckless president since (Jimmy) Carter,” warned that with Obama in the White House Iran was on course to acquiring nuclear weapons, and vowed that, if elected, he would take “every measure necessary” to “check the evil regime of the ayatollahs.”
What Romney is telling the Iranians, said Halevy, is “Don’t take notice of what Obama is saying. He’s a feckless president. He’s like Carter, you can dismiss him. When I come in, I’m going to do something else. I’m going to act against you. I’m going to support your opposition vigorously. And I’m going to introduce major elements of the American fleet into the eastern Mediterranean.
“If I were an Iranian,” Halevy went on, “I would first of all say to myself, ’If I’m to take (Romney) seriously, the first thing I must do is go full speed ahead to get a nuclear device before the fourth of November. Number one priority. By hook or by crook.’”
Said Halevy: “President Obama called this loose talk. It’s much worse than loose talk. This is highly irresponsible talk. He’s playing with our destiny. He’s playing with our lives.”
Traditionally, Halevy noted, “foreign policy in these matters has been the prerogative of a president. And to introduce this into the equation in order to get a vote or two in Florida, or a vote or two in New York City. In order to get to the White House…!”
“To tell the Iranians, ‘Look, friends, when I get in it’s going to be a new ball game,’ this is a provocative invitation to the Iranians to do their very best (to attain nuclear weapons) until Mitt Romney gets into power.”
Halevy’s successor as Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, has in recent months repeatedly warned against a military strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities. For his part, Halevy said he believed the Iranians could yet be persuaded to change course, but that next month’s P5+1 talks with the Iranians represented the last chance to do so. If there was not a breakthrough within two or three months, the only option left would be a resort to force, he said.
It would “not necessarily” fall to Israel to intervene militarily, he added. “This will also hinge on the way we conduct our relationship with the United States. The introduction of this issue into the American political campaign for the presidency has been a serious mistake.”
Halevy said an Israeli strike would generate “automatic revulsion” by the Arab masses throughout the region that would last for years. “I said a few years ago that if there was such a confrontation then the effects would last for a century,” he recalled.
“It’s not just a question of how many people will die. That’s also a consideration, sure… The (wider issue is the) enmity between us and the region as a whole… I don’t have to tell you that even today in Egypt the masses can’t (bear to) hear the word Israel. I don’t have to tell you that in Jordan not one professional organization will deal with its Israeli counterparts… We’ve seen in Egypt now what happens when the masses take control.”
Nevertheless, he said, Israel should not countenance a nuclear weapons-capable Iran “as long as we can do what we can to remove it.”
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
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