Much has been made of a growing split between Israel’s security elite and government politicians following retired Mossad Chief Meir Dagan’s comments that an Israeli attack on Iran is “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.” But those factions in the Israeli government who favor keeping a military strike “on the table” hit back today with two high-profile warnings about the Iranian threat and a denouncement of Dagan’s comments.
The Jerusalem Post reported on comments made by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to the World Jewish Congress’s Board of Governors:
The international community has forgotten about the Iranian issue and their desire to achieve nuclear capability. It is clear they are no longer trying to conceal and doing everything they can to achieve the capability.”
And former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi – currently a visiting fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings – responded to Dagan’s comments, telling Israeli Army Radio:
I am confident the new IDF general chief of staff, new Mossad head and entering Shin Bet chief know how to express their opinions to our leaders and won’t cave to pressure.
The Jerusalem Post interpreted Ashkenazi’s as a warning to Dagan: “Keep opinions about Iran attack to yourself.”
Both Ashkenazi and Lieberman appeared to support Netanyahu’s position that Iran’s nuclear program represents an “existential” threat to Israel and ignored recent reports that Iran hasn’t yet decided to build a nuclear weapon. But they weren’t completely in agreement on all matters of Israeli policy.
Ashkenazi broke with Lieberman and Netanyahu on how to move forward with peace talks. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The former IDF chief insisted that Israel would have a bigger impact on the final outcome if it were achieved “with coordination rather than in conflict,” and that the government would have a greater likelihood in producing two states under conditions suitable both to Palestinians and Israelis.
While disagreements over how Netanyahu should move forward on peace talks appears to be accepted in the Israeli public discourse, questioning the wisdom of the “military option” against Iran is still a touchy subject despite the growing number of ex-Mossad chiefs publicly voicing concern over Netanyahu’s confrontational rhetoric toward Tehran.
The latest backlash against Dagan goes to show that public disagreement over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program remains a taboo among the upper echelons of Israel’s decision-making apparatus.