Ephraim Halevy is a responsible sort of guy. A former Mossad Chief, National Security Council head, an ambassador, he even was a journalist for a short while more than fifty years ago. So when he is quoted by the New York Times and Associated Press saying that for the next twelve weeks, "if I were an Iranian, I would be very worried about the Israeli talk about a possible attack, because Israel's threats sound serious and credible to me," we should take him at his word. If he were Iranian, he would be very worried.
But what is he? Or more to the point, whom is he speaking as? Is he an unofficial spokesperson for the Israeli government or for the Israeli intelligence establishment (not the same thing) or is he simply acting as yet another commentator? And how much does he actually know from inside?
The official answer to all these questions would be that once a man ceases to be a member of the inner forums, and Halevy retired from public service nine years ago, he is no longer privy to classified information. But does one ever really retire from those forums? On the other hand, as we said at the start, Halevy is a responsible guy and he wouldn't be letting on any secrets. Unless someone asked him to. But then would he?
Unlike other ex-defense heads, such as Meir Dagan, Gabi Ashkenazy and Yuval Diskin, he doesn't seem to be planning a plunge into the political pool, so he probably doesn't have a personal motive in weighing in. Neither is he another establishment stooge – he isn't exactly an iconoclast but he has come out publicly in favor of engaging with Hamas and has said that religious extremism is a greater danger to Israel than the Iranian threat. So he's not exactly gung-ho either.
I don't envy the Iranian intelligence officer who is trying right now to make some sense out of all this.
Let's stick with the most likely premise, that Halevy is still responsible and therefore not revealing any secrets that have come his way. He is fully aware of his position and that our Iranian intelligence officer will believe an ex-Mossad chief is always a Mossad chief and take his words as coming from the top. Halevy would not have risked causing any misunderstanding on the Iranian side - unless he was certain that he was saying absolutely nothing new, and if he is being so specific as to even mark out the period in which an Israeli strike is likely – twelve more weeks, roughly the time left from now until just before the U.S. elections, then he must assume the Iranians already believe this.
So if Halevy has spoken so plainly out in the open, he is only doing what we all can do for ourselves, hear what Netanyahu and Barak are saying, without any concern for diplomacy or operational secrecy, observe the anxious scurrying of senior administration officials, flying across the Atlantic to meet with them and see how just about everyone in Israel's upper echelons are no longer leaking to the media, but opening the taps up full-blast.
It's out there in the open, Halevy knows it but so does anyone who can read a paper or watch the news on television; in Jerusalem, Washington or Tehran. It may never happen, but for the next three months, Israel is at the closest point it has ever been to attacking Iran.
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