Israel's Establishment Speaks Out on Iran

Insiders Divided Like Never Before Over Looming War

By J.J. Goldberg and Ben Lynfield

Published August 26, 2012, issue of August 31, 2012.

Against

Uzi Arad
Uzi Arad

Uzi Arad

Former head of National Security Council, former director of research for the Mossad

What he said and where

Told Forward columnist J.J. Goldberg that Israel must work with Washington, not unilaterally, against Iranian nuclear threat in July 22 interview.

What it means

Believes Israel alone cannot stop Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability over the long run.

“One needs American leadership, one needs American resources. One needs American abilities, either diplomatic or military.”


Gabi Ashkenazi
Gabi Ashkenazi

Gabi Ashkenazi

Former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff

What he said and where

Voiced opposition to a unilateral strike at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York on April 29.

What it means

Views the problem as an international one; Israel must act as part of an international alliance; sanctions worked in 2003, when Iran froze nuclear research under international pressure.

“I think we still have time. It is not tomorrow morning.”


Ami Ayalon
Ami Ayalon

Ami Ayalon

Former head of Shin Bet

What he said and where

Told Forward columnist J.J. Goldberg on July 8 that an Israeli strike would only delay the Iranian nuclear program.

What it means

Sees U.S. and NATO participation as crucial for success of a strike.

“The perception should be that we did everything possible in the diplomatic track [so] it’s now legitimate to act.”


Meir Dagan
Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

Former head of the Mossad

What he said and where

Opposed attack at Hebrew University conference on May 6, 2011, and in frequent interviews since.

What it means

Doubts pilots could reach enough of Iran’s well-scattered nuclear targets; attack will trigger a war with unpredictable consequences; takes President Obama at his word that the United States won’t allow Iran to become a nuclear state.

Called attack proposal “the stupidest thing I ever heard.”’

Against

Yuval Diskin

Former chief of Shin Bet

What he said and where

Told residents of Kfar Sava on April 27 that he does not trust the judgment of Prime Minister Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

What it means

Believes an Israeli strike is liable to accelerate Iran’s nuclear program rather than eliminate it.

“I don’t believe in either the prime minister or the defense minister. I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings.”


Uzi Even

Former senior scientist in Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.

What he said and where

On August 19, called for Israel to propose closing its Dimona nuclear reactor in exchange for the halting of Iran’s nuclear program.

What it means

Believes Iran’s nuclear facilities are dispersed and buried, and that a strike could touch off a war of attrition, lasting years. Has also said that Dimona is an old facility, and warned of a danger of a mishap there in any event.

“No one in the world believes Israel will be empty-handed against a nuclear Iran.”


Benny Gantz
Benny Gantz

Benny Gantz

Current IDF chief of staff

What he said and where

In an April 25 Haaretz interview, voiced doubt that Iran would finalize development of nuclear bomb; said Israel preparing to attack, if necessary.

What it means

Doubts Iran’s leaders prepared to incur international consequences of developing a nuclear bomb.

“I don’t think [Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei] will want to go the extra mile…. The Iranian leadership is [composed] of very rational people.’’


Ephraim Halevy

Former head of the Mossad

What he said and where

Said in Channel Two interview on August 4 that Israel should not launch a unilateral strike.

What it means

Believes external support is crucial for success.

“It would not be desirable for Israel to act alone.”’

Against

Amnon Lipkin-Shahak
Amnon Lipkin-Shahak

Amnon Lipkin-Shahak

Former IDF chief of staff; former head of military intelligence

What he said and where

Told The Times of Israel on August 14 that there is no need to rush into a strike

What it means

Has faith in intentions of the United States to stop an Iranian bomb; accords great weight to reported opposition to a strike of current IDF chief, Mossad chief, military intelligence chief, Shin Bet chief and commander of air force.

“I have complete faith in the security officials and give a lot of weight to their opinion.”


Shaul Mofaz
Shaul Mofaz

Shaul Mofaz

Ex-defense minister, ex-IDF chief of staff

What he said and where

Accused Netanyahu of “inflating” the Iranian nuclear threat for political purposes on Israel’s Channel Two, March 29. As opposition leader, has made stopping the strike one of his major political banners.

What it means

Believes an attack would achieve only limited results alongside “loss of life, grave damage to the home front and deep erosion of Israel’s political situation.”

“Such action is immoral and operationally illogical under the circumstances.”’


Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres

President, former prime minister, former defense minister, former director-general of defense ministry

What he said and where

Restated his opposition to unilateral Israeli action in an August 16 interview with Channel Two television.

What it means

Believes Israel must coordinate with Washington; says he trusts President Obama and that Israel can at best delay an Iranian bomb by acting alone.

“It’s clear to us that we cannot do it alone. We have to proceed together with the Americans.”’


Uri Sagi

Former chief of military intelligence

What he said and where

Voiced opposition to Iran attack in an August 17 interview with Haaretz.

What it means

Believes any action cannot succeed without backing from the United States and that Israel cannot afford to go against America’s position.

“This is a worldwide and regional problem, and Israel is trying to take the chestnuts out of the fire all by itself….This does not work.”

For

Avi Dichter
Avi Dichter

Avi Dichter

Former Shin Bet head; recently appointed minister for the home front

What he said and where

Backed Benjamin Netanyahu’s characterization of Iran as an “existential threat” in his first remarks as minister, August 19.

What it means

Believes Isreal must be prepared to act alone and attack Iran if necessay.

“Lebanon, Gaza and Syria pose a strategic threat, and Iran for the first time poses an existential threat.”


Ephraim Sneh
Ephraim Sneh

Ephraim Sneh

Former deputy defense minister

What he said and where

Barring a change in Iran’s stand, backed an attack before end of year in a briefing to the Israel Policy Forum on July 10.

What it means

Believes Israel’s window to act is short because winter conditions will soon make an attack impossible and Iran will have new defenses in place by spring.

“Our operational maneuvering is narrower than America’s.”


Moshe Ya’alon

Current minister for strategic affairs, former IDF chief of staff

What he said and where

Backed Barak and Netanyahu’s stance in June 13 Haaretz interview.

What it means

Believes Israel may have to act alone to remove what he sees as an existential threat.

“The Iranian nuclear threat is like a sword held to Israel’s throat….Under no circumstances will Israel agree to let the sword touch its throat.”’


Straddler

Amos Yadlin
Amos Yadlin

Amos Yadlin

Former head of military intelligence; director of Institute for National Security Studies

What he said and where

In a Washington Post opinion piece August 18, urged proactive diplomacy by Obama to reassure Israel and avert an Israeli attack.

What it means

Recommends that Obama address the Knesset to make clear his commitment to stop the Iranian bomb, and that he inform Congress in writing of his intention to use military force if diplomacy fails.

“If the U.S. wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time, Israelis must know they will not be left high and dry if these options fail.”

Based on reporting by Ben Lynfield and J.J. Goldberg.



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