The inside story of how PM’s Mossad-Iran archives speech came about

The PMO official said that the assigned staffers went through dozens of versions of the prime minister’s slide show “to achieve the largest impact.”

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June 6, 2019 02:43
2 minute read.
Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defense

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018.. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

 
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Yarden Vatikai, head of public relations in the Prime Minister’s Office, disclosed on Wednesday the inside story of how Benjamin Netanyahu’s now famous April 2018 speech about the Mossad’s appropriation of Iran’s secret nuclear archives came to be.

Speaking at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center in Tel Aviv, Vatikai presented what he said was a two-month-long, intense internal debate by a small staff of intelligence staffers and staff from the Prime Minister’s Office.


Vatikai described how tactical considerations of choosing what to present at Netanyahu’s speech and how to present it were at least as important as more abstract strategic considerations, in order to have the maximum impact on policy and the public worldwide.

He called Netanyahu’s news conference not only one of the most dramatic news events in years, but one of the most profoundly effective public presentations of intelligence to impact policy.

Vatikai also describes some of the issues involved in a recent IIHCC article coauthored with IDF intelligence officer Col. “A.”

Both sides of the political spectrum acknowledge that Netanyahu’s speech was a key component for the Trump administration in its decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and that the issues raised have maintained a certain pressure on Tehran to defend its nuclear record.

Vatikai said that the assigned staffers went through dozens of versions of the prime minister’s slide show “to achieve the largest impact.” There were also internal debates between staff members about what intelligence could be revealed and what needed to be kept secret.


Although the debates can be complex, Vatikai said that often intelligence professionals want to reveal less, and to present what is revealed with more nuance, whereas political officials tend to want to reveal more and with a simpler message for the public to quickly understand and absorb.

He said there were also debates about which images to present that would most shock and shake up the public and decision-makers, to accept the main message that Iran had lied to the world.

He even said that the kind of podium and setup of where Netanyahu stood in relationship to the bookcases showing off Iranian intelligence was carefully considered. Eventually, there was a decision to have a skinnier and more transparent podium in order for the prime minister to be freer to move around and interact with the evidence.

Vatikai said that the slide that underlined the words “5 warheads,” “10 kilotons TNT yield” and “on a missile” was carefully selected to drive home the overall message of the threat from Iran in one slide.

Netanyahu’s presentation has also led to calls from around the world for the IAEA to look into the evidence presented.

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