A former Israeli prime minister joined the growing chorus of top former officials to criticize the Netanyahu government’s hawkish approach to Iran, urging that time remained to broker a diplomatic deal and that heated rhetoric and historical comparisons could paint Israel into a corner.
Ehud Olmert, who left office in 2009 under a corruption scandal, told a conference in New York on Sunday:
There is enough time to try different avenues of pressure to change the balance of power with Iran without the need for a direct military confrontation with Iran.
He went even further in interviews with news media, warning off an Israeli attack. Olmert told Israel’s Channel 10:
There is no reason at this time not to talk about a military effort, but definitely not to initiate an Israeli military strike.
In an interview with the New York Times, he echoed concerns of Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, retired Israeli brigadier general Shlomo Brom, and his successor atop the Kadima opposition party Tzipi Livni that the Israeli government’s rhetoric on Iran was getting too heated. Olmert, who eschewed comparisons between Iran and Nazi Germany, said:
They talk too much, they talk too loud. They are creating an atmosphere and a momentum that may go out of their control.
At the conference in New York, the former top military officer in Israel, Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said the Israelis “still have time” before they need to launch an attack and called for “crippling sanctions and much more severe sanctions.” His successor at the top military post Gen. Benny Gantz last week echoed reported Israeli and American intelligence estimates and said Iran “hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile” and build a bomb.
While a potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime, those estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Like their Israeli counterparts, American officials including President Obama vow to keep “all options on the table” to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, but questions about the efficacy and consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to end the West’s crisis with Iran.