The Middle East might be thousands of miles away, but on Sunday New York became the battleground for the Israeli-Iranian conflict as former top Israeli government and security officials spoke out against the government’s policies on Iran.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former chief of staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and former Mossad director Meir Dagan all said at The Jerusalem Post Conference that Israel should not lead the campaign against Iran, should not plan an attack in the near future and should instead try and improve its working relationship with the Obama administration.

Both Olmert and Ashkenazi warned against a premature military strike, with the former prime minister taking it a step further, questioning whether Israeli unilateral action would even be effective in stopping Iran.

On their own, the comments could be viewed as just a bit more criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. It could, however, be something more.

On Friday, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin spoke out in an unprecedented way against the government and said that Barak and Netanyahu were guided by “messianic” impulses and were lying about the projected effectiveness of an Israeli strike on Iran.

Diskin’s comments came just a few days after a series of interviews IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.

Benny Gantz gave the Israeli press in which he claimed that the sanctions were effective. He also predicted that Iran would ultimately decide not to build a nuclear weapon. At the same time, though, Gantz stressed that the IDF has the ability to attack Iran and set back its nuclear program if ordered to do so by the government.

While Netanyahu and Barak tried to frame Diskin’s comments as being made by a bitter exsecurity chief who was not given the job he wanted (as head of the Mossad), this cacophony is not something that can be ignored. This is especially true when it includes the former heads of the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad as well as a former prime minister who is just as knowledgeable when it comes to the pros and cons of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

While there seems to be a major divide between the way these former officials view the Iranian threat and the way Netanyahu and Barak see it, all agree that Israel needs to wait and give the sanctions time before taking action. The difference is on the nuance and particularly on how long Israel should wait.

While Barak, for example, speaks about the so-called “immunity zone” that Iran is moving into that could make an Israeli attack ineffective, these officials argue that there is still time. As Ashkenazi said on Sunday: A strike does not need to be launched tomorrow morning.

On the other hand, all of this talk could be connected to a sense that a government decision on Iran is coming up soon and that this might be the last chance to affect how the cabinet votes.

All ultimately agree on two things – Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and time is not on Israel’s side. The difference is on when the clock will run out.

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