Israeli Security Leaders Need to Chill Out Before Speaking on Iran

Haaretz Editorial
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Mossad chief David Barnea with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in September.
Mossad chief David Barnea with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in September.Credit: Kobe Gideon/GPO
Haaretz Editorial

Leaders of the security branches have been parading a stream of arrogant, boastful threats against Iran in recent days. Most prominent among them are IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and Mossad chief David Barnea. The two seem to be in a swaggering competition to see who can gain the upper hand in the bombastic campaign.

The first was Barnea, who uttered a fallacious, groundless announcement: “Iran won’t have nuclear weapons. Not in the next few years, not ever. That is my commitment, the Mossad’s commitment.”

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Beyond the question of whether Israel is even capable of preventing any state from turning nuclear, it raises the question of whether the Mossad is the one to determine policy, goals and objectives in a democracy, and whether its head is permitted to make a commitment in the name of all those who will succeed him in three or four years and in coming generations.

Either the Mossad chief didn’t want his statement to be taken seriously, in which case it’s not clear why he made it, or he did, which raises the question of whether he even understands the boundaries of his position and authority in a democratic state.

Hot on his tracks came Kochavi, who boasted of the army’s preparations for attacking Iran: “We remember that the decisive move is achieved by means of attack. We are strengthening it considerably and steadfastly, and in the past year especially toward Iran.”

What did Kochavi think he’d achieve by his announcement? Alarm the Iranians? Make the Americans concede?

While it’s not at all clear if Israel is capable of attacking all of Iran’s nuclear facilities and preventing their reconstruction, and while the discussion is about an Israeli attack and not, as it should be, on an Iran-Israel war that could erupt following such a dangerous attack, the defense establishment is clearly playing with fire.

The IDF and Mossad must of course prepare for any scenario, but they should do their work quietly, away from the threatening trumpets and drums of war. The political leadership must intervene immediately and put an end to this bravado. It’s doubtful if anyone takes it seriously in Washington, Vienna or Tehran. The issue at stake is critical and explosive, and cannot be left to verbal assaults by braggart generals that could ignite a conflagration.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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