The politics of defense

Defense officials’ political misjudgment and insubordination may have killed military option on Iran.

October 7, 2013 15:13
Gabi Ashkenazi with Binyamin Netanyahu

Gabi Ashkenazi with Binyamin Netanyahu 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/POOL New)

Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of blowing his chance to attack Iran’s nuclear program, noting that it would have been easier when the reviled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was Iran’s president than it would be now, with the world swooning over the “moderate” Hassan Rohani. “Here's a line I never thought I'd write: I wish Ehud Olmert were Israel's prime minister,” continued Stephens, a former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief. Olmert “had a demonstrated capacity to act. It isn't clear that Mr. Netanyahu does.”

Though many Israelis share Stephens’ doubts about whether Netanyahu would attack if necessary, the Olmert comparison is unfair. Whereas Olmert had the defense establishment’s full support for bombing Syria’s nuclear reactor, senior defense officials opposed attacking Iran’s nuclear program so vehemently that then-IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, backed by then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, reportedly disobeyed a direct order to ready the army for such a strike in 2010. 


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