News Brief – June 3, 2011
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has issued Netanyahu with his starkest warning yet over Iran. Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv Wednesday, he said Israel would not be able to completely stop Iran’s nuclear program and that a preemptive strike would at best only delay it.
Worse still, the consequences of such a strike needed to be seriously considered, Dagan warned, because Israel might find it had opened a Pandora’s box for the future.
“It is important to know what the outcome of an attack on Iran would be, what would happen on the day after and what situation Israel would find itself in on the international stage,” Dagan said.
“An attack on Iran would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given (Iran) the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program because the Iranians would then claim, ‘We have been attacked by a foreign country that is reported to have a military nuclear capability. Now we have no choice but to defend … against a country with strategic capabilities – a compelling and principled argument for them to move to a large nuclear program,” he added.
“It is important to know that that war would not just be against Iran. It would be a regional war that would include Syria – if we needed to attack Hezbollah targets in Syrian territory. The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”
Although it is not uncommon for former Israeli intelligence chiefs to be speak publicly, for Dagan to speak so openly and so soon after his departure has raised eyebrows in Israel.
Many see in Dagan’s highly publicised warnings evidence, from one in the know, that Israel is actually preparing to strike Iran. Meanwhile others have openly welcomed the stand he has taken.
Writing in Haaretz, Aluf Benn summed up Dagan’s speech as “a simple message that every Israeli can understand”
“After two years of the prime minister’s complete control over the political message coming out of Jerusalem, there is finally someone who is standing up and warning the public of the risks inherent in a leadership that “is absent of vision and responsibility.”
In recent months, the military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and the director of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Yuval Diskin, have stepped down. Together with Dagan the trio were seen as a counterweight to Barak and Netanyahu.
On Thursday Dagan became more confrontational naming both Barak and Netanyahu.
“I decided to speak out because when I was in office, Diskin, Ashkenazi and I could block any dangerous adventure,” Dagan was quoted as saying. “Now I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and Barak,” he added, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.
Mr. Dagan, who had refused contact with the media during his time in office, called a news briefing the last week of his tenure and laid out his concerns about an attack on Iran. But military censorship prevented his words from being reported.
“Dagan wanted to send a message to the Israeli public, but the censors stopped him,” journalist Ronen Bergman recalled. “So now that he is out of office he is going over the heads of the censors by speaking publicly.”