Netanyahu: Israel's Policy Remains Preventing Enemies From Obtaining Nuclear Weapons

Hours after Israel claims credit for 2007 attack on Syrian nuclear reactor, the PM praises military, Mossad

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Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Syrian border
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, foreground, on a visit to the Syrian border, Feb. 6, 2018.Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had praise for Israel's destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor 11 years ago, details of which were cleared for publication on Wednesday.

Through the bombing of the reactor at the time, "the Israeli government, the Israeli army and the Mossad [spy agency] prevented Syria from developing nuclear capabilities," Netanyahu said. "Israel's policy was and has remained consistent – preventing our enemies from obtaining nuclear weapons."

Earlier on Wednesday, Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz commented on the release of the previously classified details of the bombing and said: "Israel will never permit nuclear weapons to be obtained by those who threaten its existence – Syria then and Iran now."

Katz praised Ehud Olmert, who was prime minister at the time of the operation. "On the ledger of credits and debits of public activity, destruction of the Syrian reactor will clearly be to Olmert's credit."

Olmert resigned as prime minister in 2009 in the face of allegations of criminal wrongdoing. He was released on parole in June of last year after serving 16 and a half months of a 27-month sentence for corruption and obstruction of justice.

The former heads of the Mossad and Military Intelligence at the time of the attack are now warring over which intelligence organization deserves credit  for uncovering the Syrian nuclear program. Tamir Pardo, who was the head of the Mossad in 2007, said on Wednesday that it was only because of the Mossad that Israel knew about the reactor. He also said its late discovery was a "thunderous failure."

The Syrian reactor was attacked due to the capability that it would have given the Syrians, with North Korean help, to develop nuclear weapons. According to the New Yorker magazine, Mossad officers broke into the home of the head of the Syrian atomic energy commission in Vienna and copied data from his computer. This information contained pictures of the inside of the reactor that proved its existence.

The former head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, rejected allegations of an intelligence failure, saying Military Intelligence pointed out the possibility of a Syrian nuclear program in late 2006.

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