Former Mossad Chief: Netanyahu's Iran Policy Was a 'Dismal Failure'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presenting his Iran dossier at a news conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, April 30, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presenting his Iran dossier at a news conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, April 30, 2018.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a "big mistake" by trying to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal as it brought Tehran closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, said Efraim Halevy, the former Mossad chief during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister.

Speaking on the Haaretz Weekly podcast, Halevy said, "I have always thought that it was a grave mistake to pressure the previous President of the United States, Donald Trump, to leave the agreement, to more or less cancel the United States’ involvement in this aspect of the relationship with Iran.

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“I thought it was a big mistake and the fact of the matter is if we look at the events which took place [since Trump exited] the agreement on behalf of the United States, the situation versus Iran has become all that much worse.”

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, 2007Credit: Daniel Bar On/Jini

According to Halevy, Netanyahu also made a significant mistake by publicizing Mossad operations against Iran, which were part of “an attempt to shame the Iranians” but which backfired and produced “negative” results.

Withdrawing from the agreement, he asserted, brought Iran closer to a bomb. The fact that “Israel says that Iran has never before been as close to a breakthrough into a nuclear mode is testament to the fact that the entire policy of the former government was a dismal failure. It was an unfortunate failure, and it might be an historic failure.”

When asked how effective the 2015 agreement had been in holding back Iran’s nuclear progress, Halevy replied that while the agreement was far from perfect, he believed that “an agreement was better than a non-agreement” and that it could potentially have led “to the beginning of secret dialogues and secret contacts and secret, shall we say, feelers put out by one or another of the people concerned.” In his view, Israel and Iran could potentially even talk to one another under such circumstances.

“I have always been the promoter of these kinds of activities, not as an alternative to the other method of force and intelligence and provocative activities, but as part of the menu you have in front of you which allows you sometimes to choose” different options, he said. “And I thought that it was a mistake, still think it was a mistake, to take it off the menu — to restrict ourselves. I think you're causing yourself damage by not trying to revert to this.”

During the interview, Halevy also discussed the risk posed to Israel by relying on economic investments from China, and made a surprising call for Israel to consider direct negotiations with Hamas, the Palestinian terror group controlling the Gaza Strip. Listen to the full interview by clicking on the player button above.