Yet another embarrassment to Israel’s prime minister in his effort to drum up support for a military attack on Iran: Haaretz reports that the newly appointed director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Tamir Pardo, downplayed the severity of the Iranian nuclear project, telling a closed gathering of senior Israeli diplomats that an Iranian nuclear weapon is not necessarily the “existential threat” it’s often described as being.
“What is the significance of the term existential threat?” the ambassadors quoted Pardo as asking. “Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That’s not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely.”
Remember, Pardo was appointed a year ago to replace the legendary, long-serving Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has since called a military attack on Iran “the stupidest idea I ever heard” and worried aloud that his successor wouldn’t be able to stand up against a trigger happy prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak. Dagan has said he fought for years, together with the Shin Bet director and military chief of staff, to restrain the two from “adventurism.” All three security chiefs were replaced this year with newcomers who were supposed to be more compliant.
Nothing like good news to ruin an Israeli prime minister’s day. And that’s not the end of it:
In another possible embarrassment, the Palestine Liberation Organization reportedly has agreed to drop its demand for a settlement construction freeze and commitment to the 1967 armistice lines as preconditions to renewing peace talks. Haaretz reports that the PLO told the Quartet mediators it’s willing to settle for a release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners held since before the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Israel reportedly rejected the offer, claiming they’re worried the Palestinians will come up with another demand later on, or the dog ate their road map or something.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).