The continued variety of comments about Iran from the governing summit of Israeli says something about this country and its society.
The problem: one cannot be sure what it says.
Last month, the former chief of Mossad spoke publicly on Amrican media.
"Meir Dagan has been described as "hard-charging" and "stops at nothing." For more than eight years, Dagan made full use of those qualities as chief of Mossad, Israel''s intelligence agency, where he focused on keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. When that job ended, Dagan did something unheard of for an ex-Mossad chief: he spoke out publicly, voicing opposition to Israel launching preemptive airstrikes against Iran''s nuclear facilities anytime soon. Dagan believes the Iranian regime is a rational one and even its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who has called for Israel to be annihilated - acts in a somewhat rational way when it comes to Iran''s nuclear ambitions."
Last week, we heard from the senior commander of the IDF, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz,
"Israel''s military chief said he does not believe Iran will decide to build an atomic bomb and called its leaders "very rational"."
More recently, the former head of the Shin Bet intelligence organization, Yuval Diskin, expressed himself.
"Referring to the leaders as "our two messiahs," a likely reference to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Diskin said "they are not fit to hold the steering-wheel of power. I have no faith in the current leadership in Israel and its ability to conduct a war."Regarding their handling of the Iranian nuclear issue, Diskin said the leadership "presents a false view to the public on the Iranian bomb, as though acting against Iran would prevent a nuclear bomb. But attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster.""
What we see here is the current head of the military and the recent heads of the two other major security arms of the Israeli state speaking out in direct contrast to the two political figures--the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense--who hold the power to decide about an attack on Iran. Netanyahu and Barak have threatened to attack if sanctions do not curb Iran''s nuclear program..
From the Defense MInister in an independence Day speech:
"The chances that, at this pressure level, Iran will respond to international demands to irreversibly stop its program seem low. I would be happy to be proven wrong."
One of Netanyahu''s recent remarks
"(Sanctions) better work soon. (They) are certainly taking a bite out of the Iranian economy, (but) they haven''t rolled back the Iranian program -- or even stopped it -- by one iota . . .I hope that changes, but so far, I can tell you, the centrifuges are spinning . . . they were spinning before the talks began recently with Iran, they were spinning during the talks, they''re spinning as we speak."
Aides to Gantz, Netanyahu and Barak have sought to soften the differences between them. Israeli security personnel have, for some time now, expressed their reservations about an attack on Iran. A former head of military intelligence has said, “you hear different music from the political level and the professional level.”
The US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, said about Gantz''s statement that he views Iran as rational and unlikely to construct a nuclear weapon, "I would hope he''s correct and he knows something more that I do."
Comments were sharpest with respect to Diskin. Sources close to Netanyahu and Barak accused Diskin of operating from personal and political motives, and expressing his frustration at not being appointed to head the Mossad after retiring from the Shin Bet. One of the ministers in Netanyahu''s government said that his comments were "crude and inappropriate." Another minister said that Diskin''s comments could damage the country''s standing. A Likud back bencher said that the Knesset should consider a law to silence former senior officials, "who are as quiet as fish when in office, and immediately upon retirement speak nonsense."
Confusion? Disinformation? Or the reality of Israel''s unfettered society, where the most senior professional soldier and recently retired heads of super secret security organizations feel free to speak out against political leaders on one of the country''s most sensitive policy matters, and do so in a way that--in Diskin''s case--goes beyond the boundaries of ridicule?
Democracy, governmental chaos, or just Israel''s style of democracy?
Could it all be an orchestrated campaign, in cooperation with the United States?
In one fanciful hypothesis, Netanyahu and Barak are playing the bad cops, making threats to keep up the pressure on Iran to give up the nuclear option in the face of existing sanctions and the threat of military action. Dagan, Gantz, and Diskin are playing the good cops, expressing calm rationality in order to give Iranians reasons for avoiding their own "go to hell" option of building a weapon insofar as the views at the Israeli summit represented by Dagan, Gantz, and Diskin suggest that Israel will not attack.
By this view, the bad copy/good cop scenario is meant to both pressure Iran, and to convince its government to surrender their nuclear weapon ambitions to sanctions, without the need for an attack.
In contrast is is a less complex assessment that the comments from Dagan, Gantz, and Diskin are poorly timed, lessen Israel''s threat, and may encourage Iranians to feel that they can continue with their program to develop nuclear weapons without risking an attack on their country.
Certainty is not part of this analysis.
We may be dealing with Israeli creativity.
Or Israeli madness.
Or Israeli chaos.