Netanyahu and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
Of course, that means it’s been a much better week for anyone who isn’t so keen on the prospect of attacking Iran. I’m not sure the nails are in Netanyahu’s political coffin quite yet, but the carpenters are certainly gathering their supplies. First up, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Chief of Staff of the IDF, rejecting the notion that Iran is run by lunatics hell-bent on nuclear war:
Gantz said: “[Iran] is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile.”
The chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces said the decision to develop nuclear weapons is only in the hands of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a [military] response,” he said in the interview published on Wednesday.
“I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile.”
“I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous.”
According to Gantz, western pressure on Iran by means of diplomacy and economic sanctions has had an effect on Tehran’s rulers but a military response is still an option, albeit the last.
Next up, Yuval Diskin, the former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service, being remarkably blunt about Netanyahu’s dismal tenure as Prime Minister:
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin expressed harsh criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday in a meeting with residents of the city of Kfar Sava, saying the pair is not worthy of leading the country.
“My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a regional war,” Diskin told the “Majdi Forum,” a group of local residents that meets to discuss political issues.
“I don’t believe in either the prime minister or the defense minister. I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,” he added.
Diskin deemed Barak and Netanyahu “two messianics – the one from Akirov or the Assuta project and the other from Gaza Street or Caesarea,” he said, referring to the two politicians’ places of residence.
“Believe me, I have observed them from up close… They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off. These are not people who I would want to have holding the wheel in such an event,” Diskin said.
“They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race,” said the former security chief.
And finally Ehud Olmert, the former Prime Minister and one-time Netanyahu ally, echoing Gantz:
Ehud Olmert spoke to Israel’s Channel 10 TV from New York.
“There is no reason at this time not to talk about a military effort,” he said, “but definitely not to initiate an Israeli military strike.”
Israel and the West suspect Iran is aiming to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Olmert was Israel’s prime minister from 2006-2009. He was in office when a suspected nuclear site in Syria was attacked in 2007. It was assumed that Israel carried out the airstrike, but Israel never acknowledged that.
Olmert’s remarks came after Israel’s former internal security chief, Yuval Diskin, said the government is misleading the public on the level of effectiveness of a military strike.
Meir Dagan, Israel’s ex-Mossad chief, told the station he supported Diskin’s view.
A bad week indeed for Netanyahu. And that follows a week in which Dan Meridor, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, admitted that — contrary to Netanyahu’s repeated claims — Iran has never vowed to “wipe Israel off the map”:
Speaking to the Arab network, Meridor, who also serves as deputy PM, said Iran’s leaders “all come basically ideologically, religiously with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive.” However, he added, “They didn’t say ‘we’ll wipe it out,’ but (rather) ‘it will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor, it should be removed’. They repeatedly said ‘Israel is not legitimate, it should not exist’.”
In 2005 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying that Israel should be “wiped off the map,” but it was later revealed that the translation of his remarks, published by media outlets around the world, was incorrect. Ahmadinejad was actually quoting the leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution: “The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.”
Asked by Al Jazeera about the possibility of a strike on Iran‘s nuclear facilities and the outbreak of war in the Middle East, Meridor said Israel does not want a war, but added that Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Here’s hoping that Israel has a new Prime Minister sooner rather than later.