Israeli Democracy Questions War on Iran

Media Bares Sharp Splits Over Netanyahu and Barak's Plan

War Partners Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have found unexpected opposition to their plan to attack Iran.
getty images
War Partners Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have found unexpected opposition to their plan to attack Iran.

By Larry Derfner

Published November 08, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The infighting in Israel over whether or not to attack Iran, which went public more than a week ago and will continue unless and until the bombs start falling, shows this country at its best and worst. So far, the best is winning.

Until Israel’s No. 1 journalist, Nahum Barnea, exposed it in his Yediot Aharonot column, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had been going ahead with plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. This, despite the opposition of the entire security-intelligence establishment, other senior cabinet ministers and all foreign leaders whose opinions counted. But the uproar that has followed Barnea’s column, which was almost certainly informed by some of those security-intelligence establishment figures, seems to have stopped Netanyahu and Barak in their tracks.

BREAKING NEWS: BARAK DENIES DECISION MADE TO ATTACK IRAN

And this is good. This is a reprieve from something like doomsday. For the first time ever, the Israeli media have been filled day after day with estimates of the sort of blowback that’s likely to occur after Israel tries to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. Some highlights: Tens of thousands of missiles from Iran, Hezbollah and Syria falling all over the country; a regional war that could last for years; terror attacks on Israeli targets abroad; worldwide rage at Israel for starting the war and Middle Eastern unity around Iran.

The one danger I haven’t seen discussed is the worst one of all: the possibility that Iran or another enemy might fire biological weapons at this country, which could have about the same ultimate effect as nukes. Yet another danger I haven’t seen discussed is that of a nuclear or biological counterattack by Israel.

This is the risk that Israel’s two most powerful men, Netanyahu and Barak, were planning to take: an open-ended Middle East missile war, possibly with weapons of mass destruction. And I have no doubt that they still are, and that they will use the just-released International Atomic Energy Agency report, which says Iran is closing in on building the bomb, to persuade doubters at home and in the U.S.

In his October 28 column titled “Atomic pressure,” Barnea wrote: “Netanyahu and Barak emerge as advocates for a [military] operation. Netanyahu made the comparison at the start of his term: Ahmadinejad is Hitler; if he is not stopped, there will be another Holocaust. There are those who describe Netanyahu’s attitude on this matter as an obsession: All his life he dreamt of being Churchill. Iran gives him the opportunity … Barak doesn’t use the same superlatives, but he is [also] pushing for a military operation: He is convinced that just as Israel destroyed nuclear projects in the past, so it must destroy this one. That’s the strategy; that’s the tradition.”

Netanyahu hasn’t commented on Barnea’s column. Barak insists that “no decision has been taken” and that at any rate, such a decision could not be taken by “just two people.” However, I find it a lot more telling that none of the four security/intelligence leaders whom Barnea cited as opposing an attack — Israeli Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz, IDF Intelligence commander Aviv Cochavi, Mossad director Tamir Pardo and Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen — have uttered a word of denial. Neither has there been a peep of protest from their immediate predecessors, who were also cited in the column as opposing an attack. Then there’s Meir Dagan; since leaving the Mossad direcor’s office at the end of last year, he has been calling out Netanyahu and Barak for promoting a military adventure he calls “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.” Finally, there’s the word of Barnea, deservedly the most respected, influential journalist in the country.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.