Dennis Ross: Israeli Leaders Talk About Iran Nuclear Threat to Motivate the World to Act

During Washington Institute conference, the U.S. diplomat suggests Israeli leaders' public warnings on Iran are meant to get the world to act, and not necessarily telling of Israeli intentions to attack the Islamic Republic.

American diplomat Dennis Ross said Sunday that Israeli leaders have been speaking publicly about a possible Iran attack in order to motivate the rest of the world to act.

Speaking during the 2012 Weinberg Founders Conference at the Washington Institute in Virginia on Sunday, Ross suggested that Israel wants the world to act on Iran, as opposed to taking matters into its own hands.

Amos Yadlin and Dennis Ross at Washington Institute conference
Natasha Mozgovaya

"With Osirak in 1981, did Israel talk about it? Or in 2007 about the Syrian reactor? Why are the Israelis talking now? To create motivation for the rest of the world," said Ross.

He also said that Israeli leaders have been making public statements on Iran "in case the diplomacy fails, no one will be surprised."

The 2012 Weinberg Founders Conference began on Friday, at the Washington Institute in Virginia. The yearly conference brings together diplomats, government officials, journalists, and experts for a weekend conference focused on Middle East policy.

This year's conference featured a panel discussion entitled "U.S.-Israel Relations in a Changing Middle East." The panel included former ambassador Dennis Ross, who formerly served as President Obama's senior Iran adviser, former Israel Defense Forces intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, and others.

During the discussion, Yadlin commented on the recent controversy surrounding remarks made by former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan against an attack on Iran.

"In a democracy there is elected leadership, and appointed professionals that need be brave in presenting their recommendation to leadership in closed rooms. But whenever you retire, you should impose on yourself at least a year of not speaking at all," said Yadlin.

Yadlin advised former senior officials from speaking in all but critical situations. "If there is no black flag - government doing something unethical - killing innocent people in their house - if government is just considering a legitimate move – you had better speak in understatements. Sometimes it's even more effective," continued Yadlin.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, during a wide-ranging interview was recently asked whether his concerns over the possibility of an Israeli surprise attack on Iran have diminished.

"The United States had the opportunity to talk with the prime minister of Israel as well as the defense minister, who is somebody that I know and work with a great deal we ought to continue to operate in a unified way. That's the most effective means of trying to achieve our goal," replied Panetta.