Israeli report says Netanyahu, military were split over possible attack on Iran

 

McClatchy Newspapers

Israel’s military leaders refused two years ago to put the country’s army on alert for immediate action against Iran, telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israel was not ready to take on Iran alone, according to a new documentary that aired here Monday.

In an hour-long investigative report, the Israeli television program “Uvda” said that Netanyahu had ordered the heightened military alert during a meeting in late 2010. The report described the country’s top military and intelligence leaders, Israel Defense Forces chief Gabi Ashkenazi and the director of the Mossad spy agency, Meir Dagan, as “shocked” by Netanyahu’s move and said they both argued strongly against the measure.

Dagan argued that placing the military on heightened alert could lead to “an illegal decision to go to war,” the program said. Ashkenazi argued that putting the military on alert for an immediate strike would be a step that the country could not easily back way from, the program said.

“This is not something you do unless you are certain you want to use it at the end,” Ashkenazi was quoted as having said. “This is not something you step down from.”

In an on-camera interview for the program, Barak confirmed that Netanyahu issued the order, but he said it was not carried out because Ashkenazi said the military couldn’t carry out an attack on Iran. Ashkenazi denied that, however, and said the decision not to go forward had been a political one.

Israeli news organizations reported at the time that there had been a dispute between Barak and Ashkenazi, but the details had never been revealed.

The report renews questions about whether Israel would be able to take unilateral action against Iran over that country’s nuclear enrichment program, which Israel claims is intended to develop a weapon but that Iran says is for peaceful purposes only.

Publicly, Israel’s leaders have always said that “every option is on the table” when it comes to stopping Iran’s nuclear program. Defense analysts, however, have argued that it would be extremely difficult – if not impossible – for Israel to carry out an attack without U.S. support.

Since 2010, Iran has reinforced its nuclear facilities and, according to Israeli intelligence reports, moved much of its nuclear program below ground. Former CIA head Michael Hayden has said that a successful strike on Iran was “beyond their (Israel’s) capacity.”

In Israel, however, many believe that Netanyahu and Barak continue to favor unilateral Israeli action and have moved to replace opponents of such a move with others. Since 2010, Dagan has been replaced by Tamir Pardo as head of the Mossad and Ashkenazi has been replaced by Benyamin Gantz as head of the IDF.

In their retirement, both Dagan and Ashkenazi have been outspoken about their opposition to attacking Iran over its nuclear program.

In August, during an interview with Israel’s Channel Two news, Ashkenazi argued that sanctions and diplomacy needed to remain the priority on Iran. Asked if Israel should consider a military strike, Ashkenazi said "We’re still not there.”

Dagan has said in repeated interviews that bombing Iran would be “a mistake.”

Frenkel is a McClatchy special correspondent. Twitter: @sheeraf

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Haiti PM vows action on documents for migrants

    The prime minister of Haiti says his government will soon launch a program to help its citizens acquire documents needed to secure legal residency in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

  • Trial: dengue shot offers some protection

    The most advanced vaccine for dengue only offers modest protection but could still help millions of people avoid the devastating effects of the disease known as "breakbone fever," according to a large trial.

  •  
This image made from video posted on a pro-militant social media account on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke rising in the skyline during fighting between al-Qaida inspired militants and Iraqi security forces at the Beiji oli refinery in northern Iraq.

    Iraqi government official concedes troops at refinery are cut off, but disputes how many

    An official from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s office confirmed Thursday that a high-stakes standoff is unfolding at the country’s largest oil refinery, but he disputed details of a McClatchy report that said only 75 commandos were holed up inside and that the government wasn’t sending food or reinforcements.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category