Among Israel’s former top security officials, a growing consensus has emerged over the past several months that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be counterproductive to Israeli interests. Yesterday, former Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan emphasized that point, telling an audience that “a strike could accelerate the procurement of the bomb” and “provide them with the legitimacy to achieve nuclear capabilities.” But a new report by Ynet, suggests that the consensus opposing an Israeli attack on Iran extends all the way to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense chiefs.
“[P]olitical sources told Ynet on Wednesday that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo and several top section chiefs in the Mossad are against a strike at this time,” reads a report by Ynet. “Without Gantz’ support the chances of mounting a strike are slim,” an anonymous “political source” said.
Indeed, Gantz and Pardo have expressed reservations in the past about the effectiveness of an Israeli strike.
In December, Pardo warned that while Iran poses a threat to Israel, “The term existential threat is used too freely,” a view closely mirrored by former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy, Meir Dagan and a number of former high-ranking Israeli security officials.
And while hawks in the U.S. and Israel frequently misrepresent the intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program to portray an Iranian nuclear weapons as imminent, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz pushed back last month, telling Haaretz, “[Iran] hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile.” That assessment is shared by U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Gantz also told Haaretz, “I don’t think [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei] will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.”
Ynet looked at Netanyahu’s nine-minister security forum and concluded that Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman support an attack. But Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon, Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz and ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin, Eli Yishai and Yuval Steinitz oppose a strike.
A potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. However, intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to resolve the crisis. 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 resolve the crisis.