Netanyahu's anti-Iran campaign is Israel's greatest failure - opinion
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu displays files that provided details of Iran’s nuclear program, at a press conference in Tel Aviv in 2018.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
Israel’s prime minister decided to act like a bull in a china shop.
In 2009, just after being elected prime minister for the second time, Benjamin Netanyahu decided that preventing Iran from attaining nuclear power should be placed at the top of his government’s list of priorities. Netanyahu believed it was up to him to define Israel’s goals vis-à-vis Iran, and dictate these ideas to the entire international community, as well.
Netanyahu’s actions, however, resulted in absolute failure. It was the worst and most painful political and military failure in all of Israel’s history since its establishment.
For many years, we here in Israel, along with intelligence agencies around the world, have known that it was Iran’s intention to attain nuclear capability and to build an atomic bomb. At the same time, Iran was attempting to build missiles which, in a time of need, could reach distant regions, including strategic locations in the State of Israel. Israel’s military and deployment policies were based on this basic assumption.
At the same time, the State of Israel, led by the Mossad, and in cooperation with all of Israel’s security agencies, namely the IDF Intelligence branch, and along with the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, the Foreign Ministry, the Shin Bet and all of the other international bodies involved with the Iran issue, took actions against Iran in various sectors and in different locations around the globe. The scope of these activities and their results will one day be recorded in the annals of history of the State of Israel. None of this though was ever publicized by the government or any of its representatives.
Arik Sharon, and later I, too, felt we needed to carry out covert operations on a number of different fronts, that involved great risk, but made sure that all would be completely out of the public eye. At the time, we believed there was no reason to take unnecessary risks that might expose these actions, since the only chance this complex international effort had to succeed was if we could maintain maximum restraint and allow the US to continue leading the efforts.
In my speech at the Herzliya Conference in early 2007, I stated that Israel would act with all its capabilities and forces to thwart the Iranian nuclear program. The international struggle, however, must be led by the US. I had full confidence in then-US president George Bush’s ability, desire and determination to lead this campaign. At the same time, the international community began implementing economic sanctions against Iran.
A special headquarters was set up in the US under the leadership of Under Secretary of Treasury Stuart Levey, and in cooperation with a special body that was created in Israel to infringe on Iran’s economic freedom of action and its international trade. The UN Security Council approved two decisions involving sanctions on Iran. The international community felt obligated to curb Iranian activity, and so it did.
That is, until Israel’s prime minister decided to act like a bull in a china shop, and impose a new model on everyone around the world that included using military force to eliminate all of Iran’s bases that were suspected of being linked to nuclear activity.
NETANYAHU’S DECISION was not kept a secret and began to be discussed outside of closed forums. The possibility of an attack against Iran became a public, overt and provocative issue the echoes of which could be heard in every corner of the planet. Everyone still remembers the ridiculous presentation the Israeli prime minister gave at the UN General Assembly, with the graphs and diagrams pinpointing the secret atomic sites, and showing the red line which, if crossed, would leave Israel with no choice but to take military action.
Many of Israel’s allies around the world were terrified at the thought of the State of Israel taking independent military action that could shake up the entire Middle East.
Back in 2008, while on a visit to Israel, Bush told then Defense Minister Ehud Barak in my presence, that under no circumstances would he allow Israel to attack Iran. Moreover, he stated that the US would prevent any Israeli jet from flying over Iraq towards Iran. Bush committed to using all of his power to fight against the nuclearization of Iran, but he believed that an Israeli attempt to move forward with an attack on Iran that would drag the international community into the foray was wrong, dangerous and could possibly end in a disaster.
Obama pursued a similar policy and was fully committed to preventing Iran form advancing in its efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
During these same years, it became crystal clear that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, while continuing to develop long-range ballistic missile capabilities, which could carry nuclear bombs.
The government of the State of Israel, under the leadership of Netanyahu, decided to do everything it could to lead a military operation against Iran. In the end, Israel’s constant threats and Netanyahu’s almost daily appearances on local and international stages, led to secret negotiations between the US, its European partners (including Russia) and Iran, which culminated in the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, of which Israel was not a partner and over which it had no influence.
This agreement, which was overseen by President Barack Obama, would never have been formulated if Netanyahu hadn’t caused the level of international concern to rise so high by insinuating that Israel would act unilaterally against Iran. If the agreement really was as bad as the Israeli prime minister insinuated, then he should be blamed for contributing to its creation.
Many people – myself included – were of the opinion that although the agreement had quite a few drawbacks, despite its flaws, it was preferable to having no agreement at all.
In opposition to many people’s opinions, Netanyahu decided to use all of Israel’s political connections in the US, and all of our military potential, to bring about the abrogation of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Obama concluded his term. Donald Trump was sworn in as the new American president. A short time later, the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement. Over the last few years, Israel has carried out several brilliant operations, the most prominent of which was the break-in by Mossad agents into the warehouse where secret files were stored in a suburb of Tehran.
These Israeli operations revealed what many people already knew: that Iran had fulfilled all of the commitments that were delineated in the agreement that was promoted by Obama. Not only did the withdrawal of the US from the agreement not improve the situation, but it led to a dramatic escalation in Iranian nuclear activity, significant progress toward building a bomb, the operation of advanced centrifuges it hadn’t had in the past and larger amounts of enriched uranium.
Just last week, the recently retired deputy head of the Mossad who was in charge of operations, “Alef” (his name is not allowed to be published), stated in the clearest of terms: Netanyahu’s actions led to a strategic failure for Israel, and as a result, Iran’s nuclear capabilities have improved significantly. The deputy head, who headed up the team behind the operation to steal Iran’s nuclear archive in 2018, also asserted that Israel’s management on a political level was a complete disaster. He didn’t downplay the feats achieved through the Mossad’s operations, but he concluded, saying: We won the battle, but lost the war.
Anyone who still needs it spelled out for them why each additional day that Netanyahu serves as prime minister increases the level of danger to our security can go back and read the words said by one of Israel’s bravest and brightest warriors. His name is unknown, he is not running for Knesset, nor is he a political activist. He’s just a concerned citizen who has experienced some of the nation of Israel’s most beautiful, courageous and daring escapades, who says the results are a strategic failure.
What else must be said to justify getting rid of the hysterical man from Balfour Street?
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.