Reverberations Over Israeli General’s ‘Rational’ Assessment of Iranian Leaders

News Commentary – April 27, 2012

Although they have already been reported here the significance Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz statement cannot be overstated.
Israel’s top general told Haaretz Wednesday that “very rational people” lead Iran and that it doesn’t appear to be building a nuclear bomb, at least not just now.
Iran “is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb,” Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said.
However according to Lt. Gen. Gantz”, Iran “hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile.”
His appraisal differed markedly from that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who suggested on Tuesday that time is running out for Western sanctions to have a meaningful effect on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Nonetheless, according to Gantz, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would be disinclined to build a bomb if he believed his facilities are vulnerable to Israeli attack..
“I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people,” Gantz told Haaretz.
Although Lt Gen Gantz conceded that a nuclear weapon “in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists” would be “dangerous”, his assessment of Iran’s intention sounded a good deal more balanced than Israel’s political leaders.
This may have something to do with the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak both served in the same Israeli Army unit that had a reputation for audacity and daring.
According to,Uri Dromi, an ex-air force pilot and a former Israeli government spokesperson, the unit was modelled on Britain’s SAS and was renowned for being a “hotbed of an unrealistic view on reality.”
Known simply as the “Unit”, the Sayeret Matkal is probably best known for its raid to free hostages at Entebbe Airport, Uganda.
“They had a slogan: the enemy is a rumor” says Uri Dromi. “Which means you never bump into the enemy, because you are so clever and so prepared,” he explained. “Every operation they did was so planned, so carefully thought over and over, that it was more often than not carried out in a perfect way, while reality is far from that.”(Quote source)
The fact that the two leaders guiding Israeli policy over Iran both served in this unit raises serious questions. Have their policies, for example, been shaped by their shared experience in the “Unit”? Will the “Unit’s” reputation for daring and audacity, plus its “unrealistic view on reality”, play a role in their future decisions on Iran?
Whatever the answer, in the wake of Gantz’s remarks Israel’s political and military leaders were hastily trying to undo the damage done.
As Israel’s leaders scrambled to play down the idea that they were at odds, the New York Times reported:

Aides to all three leaders insisted that there was no disagreement on Iran. An aide in General Gantz’s office said that his words had been taken out of context and that he sought out a reporter for The Associated Press at an Independence Day event Thursday morning “to correct that wrong image or that wrong headline.”

Nonetheless, the impression that there are differences among Israel’s leaders over what to do with Iran is not new. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has repeatedly warned about an Israeli strike on Iran, saying it could have “devastating consequences” for the Zionist state.     
Indeed, Dagan cautioned that the mere threat of an Israeli strike may give Iran added incentive to acquire nuclear weapons.
We can only hope that reason prevails but with the likes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak steering Israel’s policies over Iran, we are not too optimistic.

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