PM: Gov't, not army to decide on Iran attack

Netanyahu says his mind is still not made up on bombing nuclear reactors, recalls Begin's decision to bomb Iraq reactor despite opposition from Mossad, military intelligence heads.

Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
The decision whether to attack Iran will be taken by the country’s elected political leadership, and not by the defense and security establishment, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a number of television interviews Tuesday.
Netanyahu’s comments followed a front page headline in Tuesday’s Yediot Aharonot saying that the US administration believes Israel’s top military and intelligence brass – including IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Air Force Commander Maj.- Gen. Amir Eshel, Head of Military Intelligence Maj.- Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Mossad head Tamir Pardo, and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen – are all opposed to an Israeli attack without US backing.
Stressing that he has not yet made a decision regarding an attack on Iran, Netanyahu told Channel 2 that in democracies the political echelon decides, and the professional echelon carries out those decisions.
“That is the way it has always been, and will always be,” he said. To illustrate the point, Netanyahu said that former prime minister Menachem Begin chose in 1981 to attack the nuclear reactor in Iraq despite opposition at the time from the heads of the Mossad and military intelligence.
In a rare move during his current term in office, Netanyahu granted four television interviews – to channels 1, 2, 10 and the Russian-language Channel 9 – primarily to get across his message regarding the government’s current economic steps. The interviews, however, spilled into other areas, including Iran.
The prime minister said that while he has not yet made a decision regarding an attack on Iran, he sees “the regime of the ayatollahs declaring what it has etched on its banner – to destroy us.
It is working to destroy us, and is preparing atom bombs to destroy us. As much as it is dependent on me, I will not let that happen.”
Reminded that both US President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have said they will not countenance a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu said that the “source and foundation of the State of Israel is that we will not leave in the hands of others, not even our best friends, matters concerning our fate.”
Regarding Syria and the threat of chemical weapons being transferred to Hezbollah, Netanyahu stopped short of saying what Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said a few days ago: That this would serve as a clear justification for war.
However, he did say that while not eager to take action in such circumstances, “I don’t rule out the possibility that in a situation like this – of leakage of chemical weapons to Hezbollah or extreme groups – Israel does not rule out that possibility that it will take action.”
Asked by Channel 9 about the recent Romney visit, Netanyahu stressed that he met Romney in the same way in which he – as opposition head – met Obama when he came to Israel as a candidate just three months before the 2008 elections.
Netanyahu said Romney’s visit went exactly according to the same protocol that governs all visits by leading presidential candidates from both parties.