Meir Dagan has said harsh things before (he had once said that an attack on Iran was the stupidest idea he had ever heard), but the full-fledged attack of his close friend, former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, brings the confrontation over the Iranian question to another level. Since the end of his term as the head of the Mossad last January, Dagan seems to be on a divine mission to stop the bombing. Diskin, who shares those same feelings, has kept a low profile. The harsh words leveled at the two leaders were planned ahead of time, as was evident by the note he took out of his pocket, upon which was written a Biblical verse.
The accusation that Netanyahu and Barak are infected with messianic feelings over Iran is whispered every so often by senior officials in the security services. However, this is the first time that an official, who is not part of a rival political party, uses such wording in public. It is safe to assume that until the end of the day, we will hear one of Netanyahu’s loyal MKs strike back in order to delegitimize Diskin, who is one of the most successful Shin Bet heads this country has ever seen. This same strategy was previously used against Dagan. It is also safe to assume that any counterattack against Diskin will have little effect.
So, what caused Diskin to speak out? The roots of the disagreement lay in a dramatic discussion that took place less than two years ago, wherein an alliance of top security officials, Dagan, Diskin and then-IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi, with the aid of minister Moshe Ya’alon, blocked a set of decisive ideas laid out by Netanyahu and Barak. Diskin, who was appointed by Ariel Sharon, did not derive pleasure from working closely with prime minister nor the defense minister. Tensions flared near the end of Diskin’s term, when Netanyahu pushed him to become Dagan’s successor in the Mossad, but changed his mind in the last minute. Additionally, Netanyahu appointed Yoram Cohen to replace Diskin, to everyone’s surprise.
One cannot ignore the timing of Diskin’s attack. Last Wednesday, Haaretz published an interview with IDF Chief Benny Gantz. Gantz presented a complex picture of the Iranian threat. Alongside assurances that an IDF attack was “practical and possible,” Gantz described the leadership in Tehran as “very rational,” and expressed doubt that Iran would “go the extra mile” and complete its nuclear weapon, under the current pressure. The American media, hungry for any moderate signs from Jerusalem, jumped on Gantz’s words.
Barak, who is trying, at all costs, to preserve the image of an Israeli attack as a real threat, was quick to respond to Gantz declaration. In a detailed speech given on Independence Day, Barak called the Ayatollah regime “not rational in the Western sense of the word,” and reminded the crowd that the role of the IDF is to prepare operational options. A close reading of Barak’s speech shows that like his other declarations over the past year, the defense minister presents a set of detailed explanations in favor of an Israeli attack.
While it is noon in Israel, the exact time in which Washington will wake up to another Saturday morning, the usual commotion will begin: where did Diskin come from, all of a sudden, and what is he getting at? This is the nature of the current discourse. Every declaration from one side of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean reverberates tenfold on the other side. In the run-up to the renewing of talks with Iran in Baghdad, set to take place next month, the temperature on the international barometer is rising ever-slightly. Nothing has been determined in the Iranian story, and the spring is about to boil over into another summer of tension. Should we receive word of an upcoming visit by President Barack Obama to Israel, it will only serve as further proof that the United States is making all efforts to prevent a possible Israeli attack.
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