Mofaz Has Neutralized Opposition on Iran

Mofaz has drastically reduced the effectiveness of attacks made by former chiefs of Mossad and Shin Bet; taking orders from Netanyahu and Barak is almost his second nature.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima head Shaul Mofaz at a joint news conference announcing national unity government, Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima head Shaul Mofaz at a joint news conference announcing national unity government, Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.Credit: Emil Salman
Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

Shaul Mofaz's second child and eldest son is Yonatan. He was named after Benjamin Netanyahu's brother, Yoni, the commander of Sayeret Matkal, killed when the elite unit stormed the terminal building at Entebbe Airport in 1976. Major Mofaz was Netanyahu's second-in-command. One of the planners of that operation was Colonel Ehud Barak, who would meet up with him over and over again at crucial points of their military careers.

In 1986, as commander of the Paratrooper Brigade, Mofaz served under OC Central Command Barak, and when in 1993 Mofaz was appointed commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Chief of Staff Barak promoted him to Major General, a higher rank than usual for the position. Barak then appointed him to the General Staff as OC Southern Command in 1994. Four years later, Prime Minister Netanyahu, then in his first term, approved of Defense Minsiter Yitzhak Mordehai's recommendation to appoint Mofaz as IDF Chief of Staff. Less than a year later he was reporting once again to Barak, the new Prime Minister and Defense Minister.

Mofaz may have been playing the role of the leader of the opposition in recent weeks, but taking orders from Netanyahu and Barak is almost second nature to him. Commentators tend to place Mofaz in the camp of security experts opposing a unilateral Israeli strike, and over the last year he certainly gave that impression as in a recent interview the last month in which he described striking Iran at this time as "premature" and "disastrous."

On the other hand, in a June 2008 in an interview with then Transportation Minister Mofaz in Yediot Ahronot, following the failure of diplomatic pressure on the Iranian leadership to stop nuclear development, he said: "it seems that an Israeli attack on Iran is inevitable." As we have seen last night, sticking to a position is not one of Mofaz's strong-points.

Mofaz has recently criticized Netanyahu and Barak's handling of the Iranian issue directly. As I wrote in this blog on Monday and last week, he took the two to task for ramping up the "hysteria" over Iran in order to deflect attention from Israel's social problems, and attacked Netanyahu for jeopardizing the international coalition against Iran through his continuous capitulations to the settlers.

By joining the Bibi-Barak cabinet, Mofaz has drastically reduced the effectiveness of the attacks made by the former chiefs of Mossad and Shin Bet Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin. If the leading duo is indeed "messianic" on Iran, as Diskin's accusation, what business does Mofaz have with them?

Today, he had not only lent them instant credibility, he also leaves the Knesset's opposition benches without one credible defense figure to hold the government to account. Shelly Yachimovich had never pretended to understand in these matters. At their joint press conference today Netanyahu allowed himself to joke on the matter – "I can't see anything that hasn't yet been said about me, even that I'm messianic"

Netanyahu and Barak are secure in their posts for at least another year and cannot be accused any more of using the Iranian threat for electoral purposes. They may allow Mofaz to join them in their innermost deliberations, giving him a peek of the "black" intelligence material, but he does not have a record of taking an independent view opposite to his superiors.

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