Two years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave orders for the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for striking Iran's nuclear facilities. The IDF and the head of the Mossad at the time were certain that Netanyahu and Barak were trying to "steal a war" – and the order was not fully carried out.
An investigation by the Channel 2 program "Uvda" (Fact), to be broadcast on Monday, reveals that former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, were against the move.
At the end of a meeting of the forum of seven senior government ministers in 2010, which Ashkenazi and Dagan attended, Netanyahu gave an order to raise the level of preparation of Israel's security apparatus to "P Plus" – a code that signifies getting ready for a military strike.
According to the "Uvda" investigation, Dagan came out sharply against the move in the 2010 meeting, telling Netanyahu and Barak: "You are likely to make an illegal decision to go to war. Only the cabinet is authorized to decide this." Meanwhile, associates of Ashkenazi explain that the former IDF chief was concerned that raising the alert level would "create new facts on the ground," leading to a war.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview to the "Uvda" program that Ashkenazi responded to Netanyahu at the time, saying that the IDF was not ready, and that he did not have the operational capacity to carry out the order. Barak claims in the interview that, in contrast to Ashkenazi and Dagan's positions, raising the alert level to "P Plus" does not necessarily entail going to war.
"The things that you are describing," he told the shows' host, veteran journalist Ilana Dayan, "Are the responsibility of the government. The idea that if the (IDF) chief of staff does not recommend something that is possible to do, then we cannot decide to carry it out – this has no basis in fact. The chief of staff must build the operational capacity, he must tell us from a professional point of view whether it is possible to carry out an order, or if it is not possible, and he also can – and must – give his recommendation, (but) it can be carried out against his recommendation."
Ashkenazi, on the other hand, claims in closed talks that he did prepare the military option, and that the IDF was ready for a strike, but that he was convinced that this would be a strategic mistake.
Dagan has come out in public against an Iran strike a number of times over the past few years. In May 2011, he said in his first public appearance since leaving his role as Mossad chief, that a strike would be "a stupid thing."
Ashkenazi has also publicly stated his opposition to an Iran strike since laying down his uniform. The former chief of staff has claimed that Israel does not need to strike Iran, and that it must continue covert activities. Last August, he told a meeting of the Council for Peace and Security – an association of national security experts in Israel: "I think that also today we must carry out a covert campaign, everything that is below the threshold of war, the threshold of a strike."