Haaretz Editorial

The President Is Not the Enemy

The aggressive attack on Peres, after his remarks that Israel is not capable of striking Iran on its own, proves the need for his intervention in the face of Netanyahu and Barak's light finger on the trigger.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hiding behind his "aides," was aggrieved by the chutzpah of President Shimon Peres, who dared to disturb the monopoly that he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had secured over the debate about whether to bomb Iran. "Peres forgot the role of a president in the State of Israel," Netanyahu rebuked Peres via his "aides."

Peres - along with military experts, senior commanders in the Israel Defense Forces, a former Mossad chief, the president of the United States, and much of the Israeli public - believes that Israel is incapable of striking Iran on its own. If it does decide to attack, he posits, it must have at least U.S. support, if not its military might.

Peres is not less concerned about Israeli security than Netanyahu or Barak. He did not disclose military secrets, nor did he undermine the IDF's tactical capability to strike targets in Iran. But unlike the premier and the defense minister, he sees an attack on Iran in a broader context. According to this understanding, such a strike might destroy a few critical installations and delay Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons, but as a result Israel would pay an even greater price than the casualties it would suffer. The disastrous regional results, the loss of U.S. and international support, and the undermining of the principle that has guided Israel up to now - that Iranian nuclear weapons represent a threat to the entire world, not just to Israel - all these constitute a real danger as well.

In his cautionary remarks, Peres faithfully performed his duty as president of the state - a horrified president who hears the deepest wishes of a frightened public, and who watches as a prime minister and defense minister act like guided missiles that have lost their way. The president's authority does not derive from intimate knowledge of intelligence information or from his political power. It is his merits as a statesman and as the shaper of Israeli nuclear policy that oblige him to make his opinion known to the Israeli public, which is being held hostage between the hammer of the Iranian threat and the anvil of the threat of bombing Iran. Peres is not the enemy. The aggressive attack on the president only proves the necessity of him intervening in the face of Netanyahu and Barak's light finger on the trigger.