Why don’t they all just shut up?

An acute case of verbal diarrhea has arrived to plague Israel recently and I just wish that one of Israel’s wonderful biotech companies could invent a remedy that would get all these pundits, analysts and wannabe prophets to simply shut their mouths, lay down their pens and turn off their keyboards on the subject of Iran.

First we had Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, emerging from the shadows and in terribly un-statesmanelike manner announcing to the world that for Israel to bomb Iran would be the stupidest idea ever.

Dagan was recently joined by Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shabak (aka the Shin Bet – Domestic Intelligence). In an outrageously insulting interview he pronounced PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak as “not fit to lead Israel and wrong on Iran”.

And the head of the left-wing Meretz party, Zahava Gal-On joined the party today when she announced that Israel has no moral authority to bomb Iran.

What has gotten into all these supposedly responsible people that has caused them to mouth off so loudly and dangerously in public?  Don’t they realize that their condemnations can only give moral support to the Ayatollahs’ regime in Iran by reassuring them that they will see to it that Israel will not bomb Iran’s nuclear program?

And what solutions do they offer to counter the Iranian nuclear program?

Thankfully there has been a small counter-attack on these doom-sayers from yet another ex-army bigwig, Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF Intelligence who declared that a nuclear Iran would be a much more dangerous prospect than a military strike on the nuclear program.

Yadlin said he favored exhausting all other options before striking Iran’s nuclear facilities but stressed that a “nuclear Iran is more dangerous than attacking Iran.”

“If they can’t be contained when they don’t have nuclear weapon, how can they be contained when they do?” Yadlin said.

“I am sure they won’t launch nuclear bomb the moment they get it, but the possibility as a result of miscalculations and lack of stability, they will launch nuclear missile – it’s not a possibility you can ignore,” Yadlin continued. “The flying time of a missile from Tehran to Tel Aviv is seven minutes and the temptation for first strike is huge.”

“If you really want all options on the table, you need to be very credible with the military option,” Yadlin said.

I was also glad to see several op-ed pieces condemning Dagan and Diskin for their irresponsible outspokenness on such a sensitive issue.

Amos Harel in Haaretz discussed the motive for Diskin jumping into the fray davka now and came to the conclusion that it was partly personal.

What lit a fire under Diskin? The roots apparently lie in a dramatic meeting that took place less than two years ago, at which an alliance of top security officials – Dagan, Diskin and then-IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi – with the aid of minister Moshe Ya’alon, blocked decisive ideas laid out by Netanyahu and Barak. Diskin, who had been appointed by Ariel Sharon, derived no pleasure from working closely with either the prime minister or the defense minister. Tensions flared near the end of Diskin’s term, when Netanyahu pushed him to become Dagan’s successor as Mossad head, but changed his mind at the last minute. Then Netanyahu appointed Yoram Cohen to replace Diskin as Shin Bet head, over Diskin’s opposition and to everyone’s surprise.

MK Tzachi Hanegbi, formerly of the Likud and now of Kadima, writes in the Jerusalem Post that security experience does not necessarily lead to success in the public sphere, and takes apart Yuval Diskin’s condemnatory statements:

It appears, and not for the first time, that rich operational and security experience do not guarantee success in the public arena.

Diskin’s outburst in the media contained two basic errors that usually characterize young politicians. The first was unrefined personal bickering with political opponents. The second was a preference for generalized statements instead of in-depth reasoning.

[...]

Regarding the question of Iran, Diskin has no advantage over any other skilled commentator. His specialties are fighting terrorism, countering ideological radical elements and exposing spies against Israel.

The Iranian threat poses the country’s leaders with dilemmas different from those which Diskin successfully faced for many years. It is directly connected to the political world, Israel’s foreign relations, our alliance with the United States, complex technology and military tactics, as well as intelligence and operational matters that are not the Shin Bet’s responsibility.

Diskin, of course, should not be prevented from expressing an opinion on this crucial subject, but the complexity of the issue requires that any reference to it be much deeper than a mere mention of two potential problems.

Whoever sees it as his duty to warn against a certain policy is not exempt from the necessity to present a full view on the issue in question. It is also his duty to offer a real alternative to a policy he opposes.

In Diskin’s statement, many dimensions were missing: Does he agree with the assumption that Iran intends to arm itself with nuclear weapons? Does he recommend waiting for US military action? Does he believe there is a chance that such action will take place? Does he hope the sanctions imposed on Iran will change the situation? Is there any benefit from the resumption of negotiations between the superpowers and Iran?

And finally, back in Haaretz (yes – that left-leaning newspaper!), Yisrael Harel (no relation to Amos as far as I know) turns Diskin’s and Dagan’s accusation of messianism – which they accused Netanyahu and Barak – back on their own heads:

Former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak of harboring dangerous messianic illusions. Diskin and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, both of whom recently spoke out against an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, show that even the accomplished one-time leaders of the Shin Bet and Mossad can end up making damaging comments. They will do anything – including undermining their original objective – to make it seem illegitimate for the country’s elected leaders to follow through on the mandate to rule that was bestowed upon them by the voters.

[...]

If the time comes when military action against Iran is inevitable, it would be best if Israel did not have to carry out an attack on its own. This seems to be the consensus in Israel. And when it comes to spurring the rest of the world, especially the United States, to act against Iran, Netanyahu and Barak – but primarily Netanyahu – have racked up quite non-messianic accomplishments whose importance can hardly be exaggerated. To a large extent, the sanctions that are closing in on Iran and U.S. President Barack Obama’s unequivocal statements that the United States will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power are extensions of Netanyahu’s policy of brinkmanship. It is precisely this outcome – that our job will be done by others – that Diskin and Dagan, as well as Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz, are hoping for.

Then along comes Diskin’s criticism, which follows similar comments by Dagan, and weakens other countries’ commitment to the campaign against Iran. Particularly when it comes to such sensitive issues, it is those who act on the assumption that the end justifies the means who are guilty of having “messianic” motives.

Now that it looks like elections are going to be called for this coming September, speculation has begun that Netanyahu is holding elections in order to free himself up to deal with Iran before the American elections.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling early elections so that he and his government will be free to deal with Iran’s nuclear program this September-October, one of Israel’s best-informed political commentators said on Friday night.

Netanyahu is set on Sunday to announce that he is dissolving parliament and calling elections for September 4 — a year ahead of schedule. In the weeks immediately after that vote, said well-connected commentator Amnon Abramovich on the top-rated Channel 2 news, Netanyahu will head a transition government at home and have no need to worry about voter sentiment, and he knows that President Barack Obama will be paralyzed by the US presidential campaign.

Netanyahu has shocked the nation in the past few days by indicating that he will be calling elections a year ahead of their scheduled date in October 2013, leaving analysts baffled as to his reasoning. Speculation has focused on differences among the various coalition parties over legislation on national service for ultra-Orthodox Israelis, and over elements of the national budget.

But Abramovich said that the dramatic decision to bring the elections forward relates to Iran. After the September elections, which all polls show Netanyahu winning easily, he will head a transition government for several weeks while a new coalition is formed. During that period, Netanyahu “will not be beholden to the voters,” and will be free to take decisions on Iran that many Israelis might not support, Abramovich said.

Furthermore, he will still have his trusted Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, at his side. Barak is seen as unlikely to fare well in the elections, and may not even retain his Knesset seat, but would retain the defense portfolio until a new coalition is formed.

And finally, said Abramovich, the September-October period would see Obama, who has publicly urged more patience in allowing diplomacy and sanctions to have their impact on Iran, in the final stages of the presidential election campaign, with a consequent reduced capacity to try to pressure Israel into holding off military intervention.

Who knows, they might be right. It all makes sense, certainly in this crazy corner of the world. But I wish our leaders and security experts would ratchet the sound down and stop criticizing each other in public. Let’s think before we give moral succour to the enemy.

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3 Responses to Why don’t they all just shut up?

  1. ealha3 says:

    Being Jewish, I have to look at the other side of the coin. I see a sense of increased resolution and a more sophisticated understanding of the alternatives being weighed making for a much stronger fabric that binds the Israelis in their decision to deal militarily with Iran. It seems the critics’ weakenesses have been exposed and the administration’s policies gaining unexpected support from otherwise critical areas. This is a triumph of the market place of ideas in a country that has benefitted from the best of what Democracy has to offer of, by and for a people of such proven intelligence, they succeed in virtually all their endeavors – in and out of Israel.

    • anneinpt says:

      You could be right, in a “2 Jews, 3 opinions” kind of way. Certainly Israeli democracy is extremely loud!

      But I still think that all this open criticism has at least the potential to give moral support to the Iranians by giving them the impression that the government, or at least the PM, doesn’t have the support of the security agencies – even though the critics are former security, and not present. It also gives support to the American Administration view that a strike on Iran can wait, and undermines Israel’s own position.

  2. Pingback: Israel’s anti-Iranian nuke strike capability undermined by too much chatter | Anne's Opinions

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