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Ronen Bergman Predicts 2012 Israeli Attack on Iran

Ehud Barak shooting

Ehud Barak imagines 'taking out' an Iranian scientist

Ronen Bergman’s front page NY Times Magazine feature story this week is important, but not for the reasons you might think.  It is important not because it offers a constructive approach regarding urgent matters of the day, except possibly in a negative sense.  In it, rather, we hear of all the common delusions and misconceptions of the main Israeli policymakers like Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who will make the decision to bomb Iran.  We hear relatively little (except towards the end) from those within Israel who argue against an attack, and when we do hear from them Bergman allows them to speak mostly second-hand through his paraphrase rather than in their own words.  This has the effect of minimizing the weight of opinion they offer.

When we do hear directly from Dagan, it is towards the end of the piece, well after numerous opposing sources have contradicted the premises of his thinking.  For every one source the Israeli security reporter uses who opposes war, he brings two or three holding opposite views.  Frankly, I’m not surprised at this since Bergman is a fan of a robust projection of Israeli interests, especially projections of military and security might, against its enemies.  What I am surprised and disappointed about is the decision of NY Times editors to allow such a heavily weighted view to be offered to its readers.

But understanding the thinking, wrong as it may be, of the Israeli hawks is important and useful.  It allows us to rebut and combat their logic with those in the public who retain an element of realism about the consequences of war against Iran.

Here are some of the most dubious passages in which the Israelis betray wishful thinking, rather than sober or serious insight.  He quotes Bogie Yaalon, one of Israel’s most aggressive hawks, as claiming that Iran will actually introduce one of its own nuclear devices into the U.S.:

“The Iranian regime will be several times more dangerous if it has a nuclear device in its hands,” he went on. “One that it could bring into the United States. It is not for nothing that it is establishing bases for itself in Latin America and creating links with drug dealers on the U.S.-Mexican border. This is happening in order to smuggle ordnance into the United States for the carrying out of terror attacks. Imagine this regime getting nuclear weapons to the U.S.-Mexico border and managing to smuggle it into Texas, for example. This is not a far-fetched scenario.”

This is so incredibly far-fetched as to separate Yaalon, one of Israel’s most serious security policymakers, from reason.  It makes you wonder how a country can allow someone so deluded, so Strangelovian to have his finger anywhere near the nuclear button.

In this passage, Barak raises the long-discredited discredited claim about Iran’s genocidal intentions against Israel:

 The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.”

Iran’s leaders have said that the current Israeli regime would disappear from the pages of history, not that it would destroy Israel itself.  “Disappearing” and “destroying” are two quite different words whose nuances Barak has conveniently confused.

Below Bergman outlines three critical questions Israel needs to answer affirmatively for its attack against Iran to be warranted:

1. Does Israel have the ability to cause severe damage to Iran’s nuclear sites and bring about a major delay in the Iranian nuclear project? And can the military and the Israeli people withstand the inevitable counterattack?

2. Does Israel have overt or tacit support, particularly from America, for carrying out an attack?

3. Have all other possibilities for the containment of Iran’s nuclear threat been exhausted, bringing Israel to the point of last resort? If so, is this the last opportunity for an attack?

For the first time since the Iranian nuclear threat emerged in the mid-1990s, at least some of Israel’s most powerful leaders believe that the response to all of these questions is yes.

In fact, Israel does not have the ability to cause severe damage to Iran’s nuclear capability.  A Time Magazine report about a critical IDF intelligence briefing given to the cabinet earlier this fall said Israel could not destroy Iran’s nuclear plants and that the most likely development is that Iran will achieve the option of creating a nuclear weapon:

“I informed the cabinet we have no ability to hit the Iranian nuclear program in a meaningful way.  If I get the order I will do it, but we don’t have the ability to hit in a meaningful way.”

Though the source is not identified in the Time post, the officer who delivered this pessimistic news was, according to a trusted Israeli source of mine, none other than IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.

Regarding point 2 above, I see no overt or even tacit U.S. support for an Israeli attack.  In fact, Obama’s State of the Union address mentioned Iran almost in passing and did not contain any of the ringing affirmation of a hawkish position that one would expect if the U.S. was prepared to see Israel attack.  The latest Israeli promise that it would give the U.S. 12 hours advance warning of such an attack may’ve been designed to assuage American concerns and show that Israel is acknowledging them, but it cannot have reassured anyone in Washington.

Below, you’ll find more delusional thinking arguing that Iran’s nuclear scientists are abandoning the program in droves out of fear for their lives (note no tangible proof is offered to bolster the claims):

Meir Dagan…has praised the hits against Iranian scientists…saying that beyond “the removal of important brains” from the project, the killings have brought about what is referred to in the Mossad as white defection — in other words, the Iranian scientists are so frightened that many have requested to be transferred to civilian projects. “There is no doubt,” a former top Mossad official told me…“that being a scientist in a prestigious nuclear project that is generously financed by the state carries with it advantages like status, advancement, research budgets and fat salaries. On the other hand, when a scientist…watches his colleagues being bumped off one after the other, he definitely begins to fear that the day will come when a man on a motorbike knocks on his car window.”

In fact, any scientist for any country who sees his nation intimidated by an enemy killing his colleagues is MORE likely to want to participate in the program.  Not to mention that the leaders of that country will redouble their efforts out of a sense of national pride, to ensure they achieve their scientific and military objectives.  Such covert attacks don’t seriously undermine the program.  In fact, they bring it closer to fruition in the longer term.

Now, let’s confront some of the fuzzy thinking behind Meir Dagan’s justifications for his own covert war project:

“In the mind of the Iranian citizen, a link has been created between his economic difficulties and the nuclear project. Today in Iran, there is a profound internal debate about this matter, which has divided the Iranian leadership.” He beamed when he added, “It pleases me that the timeline of the project has been pushed forward several times since 2003 because of these mysterious disruptions.”

In a separate NY Times story by Ethan Bronner, Bibi Netanayahu betrays the same wishful thinking:

Mr. Netanyahu…believes the Tehran government to be deeply unpopular, indeed despised [by Iranians], and that a careful attack on its nuclear facilities might even be welcomed by Iranian citizens.

Actually, public opinion polls show almost unanimous Iranian support for the nuclear project and that they do not blame their economic woes either on the domestic leadership or the nuclear program.  In fact, they correctly blame the west for bringing these woes upon them.  As for a “profound internal debate,” I’ve seen no evidence of this whatsoever.  Finally, his claim to have delayed the Iranian nuclear program is debatable.  Since 1996, Israelis and western figures have predicted Iran’s imminent nuclear bomb.  A combination of a western Chicken Little “sky is falling” fear-mongering and Iranian opacity has certainly contributed to rolling back the dates by which Iran would acquire nuclear capability.

Here is a prize example of Ehud Barak’s delusional thinking around the assertion of Iran’s aggressive intentions toward its neighbors:

“An Iranian bomb would ensure the survival of the current regime, which otherwise would not make it to its 40th anniversary in light of the admiration that the young generation in Iran has displayed for the West. With a bomb, it would be very hard to budge the administration.” Barak went on: “The moment Iran goes nuclear, other countries in the region will feel compelled to do the same. The Saudi Arabians have told the Americans as much, and one can think of both Turkey and Egypt in this context, not to mention the danger that weapons-grade materials will leak out to terror groups.

“From our point of view,” Barak said, “a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, which has over 50,000 rockets that threaten the whole area of Israel, including several thousand that can reach Tel Aviv. A nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations.”

At that point Barak leaned forward and said with the utmost solemnity: “And if a nuclear Iran covets and occupies some gulf state, who will liberate it?

The alleged “admiration” in which the Iranian younger generation holds the west has been considerably tempered by precisely the sort of acts of terror which Barak has championed.  That same younger generation will certainly not challenge or topple the regime while it is under such a threat to its existence.

As to whether or how neighboring states would procure nuclear weapons, Barak omits of course the fact that Israel has had such weapons since 1967.  Pakistan has had a “Muslim bomb” for decades and not used it or even threatened to use it against Israel.  Indeed Iran itself has never threatened to attack Israel militarily or with a nuclear weapon, while Israeli leaders regularly advocate violent regime change against the current regime.

As for “protection,” here Barak is right.  Indeed, Israel has 200-400 nuclear weapons for precisely the same reason: to ensure it will not be destroyed.  Yet somehow what is bestowed to Israel is treif when Iran seeks the same.  But where Barak falls down, is in his assumption that Iran would use its weapon in an aggressive manner to threaten others.  Israel has always claimed its weapons exist to guarantee its enemies cannot wipe it out.  Iran’s motivation is precisely the same.  It has never asserted it would use weapons to dominate the region.

Another troubling aspect of this piece is that Bergman omits most of the more troubling issues concerning an Israeli attack.  For example, he doesn’t mention one of Ehud Barak’s more notorious claims about an Iranian counterattack–that it would take at most 500 Israeli lives.  This is a figure that Meir Dagan practically sneered at when he discussed it on Israeli TV with Ilana Dayan.  It is further evidence of the delusions under which the hawks operate.  In 2006, Hezbollah alone caused over 100 Israeli deaths with its rocket barrages.  Even if you anticipate Israel may’ve further perfected its anti-missile defenses, when you add Iran’s far more potent and accurate missile arsenal into the mix, the likelihood of thousands of Israeli deaths is almost guaranteed.  Yet Bergman reassures that the Israeli military has taken this into account and developed measures that will somehow mitigate the danger.  He notes that proponents of war claim that if Iran gets a bomb Israel will still be guaranteed an Iranian attack later rather than sooner and it might just as well face this attack now when it has a chance, supposedly, to knock out the nukes.  This is a perfect example of Israel’s cock-eyed thinking where you anticipate a future hypothetical act as a given while having no definite basis to justify such certainty.  Somehow, this doesn’t exactly reassure.

One element of Israeli military that Bergman offers is fascinating in its own right.  He indicates that the Mossad director at the time of the 1967 War summoned the CIA station chief to his home, where they had a knock down drag out fight about an imminent Israel attack on Egypt (one that would precipitate the coming war).  While the CIA officer warned that the U.S. would actively fight against Israeli aggression, the Mossad chief argued that Israel would attack and indeed should’ve done so sooner.

The Mossad chief went over the CIA officer’s head and flew to Washington where he received a tacit green light from Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to attack.  The rest is history.  One important aspect of this encounter is to confirm the fact that Israel itself started the 1967 War and was in no way forced into that War.  In other words, it was a war of choice and not last resort.  The fact that Israel believed that Egyptian forces were prepared to attack it in no way justifies subsequent Israeli action because the judgment of Egyptian military movement is open to interpretation and most analysts now are not convinced that Egypt intended to attack.

Bergman brings this story because he hopes it will serve as a historical analogy to what could happen in the case of Iran.  He harbors a lingering hope that while the U.S. will do everything in its power to stop Israel from attacking, that when push comes to shove, we will acquiesce once we see that Israel is hell-bent on doing so and there is nothing we can do to stop them.

If this is Israel’s real belief, then we are in for real trouble for several reasons.  First, if Bergman is right and the U.S. does support or even participate in the attack, then both powers will have guaranteed a bloody regional war in which no one will be spared the sort of mayhem that Meir Dagan has warned about.  Second, if Bergman is wrong and the U.S. hangs tough and refuses to support a war, then Israel will go it alone and the damage done to Iran will be limited, will not cause significant damage to its nuclear program, but will cause severe ramifications for regional relations.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amir G January 26, 2012, 4:29 PM

    ” In 2006, Hezbollah alone caused over 100 Israeli deaths with its rocket barrages.”

    That is not true. The number of civilian deaths caused by rockets was 41 (this was also the total number of civilains who died in the war) . 158 soldiers died in the war, including 12 who died after their gathering area was hit by a rocket.

    Hezbollah Fired 4200 Rockets of all types.
    3500 120 mm Katyusha Rockets
    500 120 mm LR Katyusa Rockets
    And 200 Medium Range Missiles and Rockets such as the Fajr-3,Fajr-5, 220 m”m Rockets, 302 m”m Rockets, Zilazal 1, Zilazal 2, and Zilazal 3.

    Generally speaking Rockets are a very inaccurate weapon estimated 5% accuracy.

    At the time the war began, Hezbollah had about 14,000 rockets and missiles.

    • Richard Silverstein January 26, 2012, 11:48 PM

      What utter picaynue stupidity. As you write, Hezbollah killed 158 Israelis. My point still stands that Iran will kill far more whether it does so using rockets, anti tank missiles of whatever.

      • Amir G January 27, 2012, 12:05 AM

        So you are claiming that Iran will cause death using Anti-Missile tanks ?

        Or a regional war ? against whom ? Saudi ? Egypt ? Kuwait ?
        UAE ?

        When one comes to evaluate the possible Iranian response, one needs to consider the possible way’s at which they can retaliate, Anti-Tank missiles isn’t one of them, neither are katyusha rockets, or any other type of rockets.

        To evaluate the Iranian response one would need to understand the difference between the fuel type propulsion systems, the number of available launcher, missile accuracy etc.

        You are promoting Hysteria, which you can’t substantiate.

        • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2012, 1:14 AM

          Iran has at least 400 missiles that can reach Israel, & they’re not Saddam’s SCUDs. Hezbollah killed 158 Israelis in the last war. Hamas might attack as well. Perhaps Syria. How many wars can Israel fight at 1 time?

          • Amir G January 27, 2012, 1:44 AM

            You think that if Hamas and Hezbollah will attack Israel will play nice ? Personally i do not think that any of them will attack.
            The political situation in Lebanon changed, Hezbollah is part of the government these days. Nasrallah still hides in his bunker. Hezbollah will not risk bringing a full scale destruction to the Lebanese infrastructure.

            Syria – seems to me Assad will not stay in power much longer. the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movement in Syria will not participate in any Iranian Shenanigans, Here goes that option.

            so we are left with the Iranian abilities, and there the issue is not the number of missiles but the number of launchers, and what type are they…AKA mobile or stationary, the propulsion system (Solid-fuel or Liquid-propellant)
            How many can they launch simultaneously, how many can Israel intercept.
            saying they have 400 missiles, it’s a meaningless number in the broader context.
            Iran is bluffing that’s the reason that despite all the statements the Abe Lincoln carrier group (CVN 72) went through the strait’s last Sunday and the Iranians didn’t make a sound.

          • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2012, 4:55 PM

            Hezbollah will not risk bringing a full scale destruction to the Lebanese infrastructure.

            Says who? You? ANd what makes you an expert? They won’t risk bringing full scale destruction to Lebanon just like they didn’t risk it in 2006, right?

            Of course, Israel’s money is on putting in power a Syrian regime that will play nice with Israel. And you have it on good authority that those who take over from Assad will do so? Please don’t insult us with your painting a picture favorable to yr own right wing pro Israel interests that are nothing more than fantasy.

            So we aren’t just left with Iranian abilities since there’s no way that none of their allies will support them when the mutual enemy of all of them attacks one of them.

            Bibi & Barak & you believe Iran is bluffing. Dagan & virtually the entire senior military intelligence apparatus inside Israel believe otherwise. I know whose view I trust more…

          • Amir G January 27, 2012, 6:33 PM

            For someone who claims to be covering the conflict closely for so many years, you do miss a lot of stuff.

            Hezbollah , the man himself(nasrallah) stated as back as 2006 that if he knew that kidnapping the soldiers would lead to war he would have never done that.
            you think he will risk Lebanon destruction for the Iranian’s ?
            not a chance.

            Syria, it’s obvious that the Alawi minority who’s controlling the state at the moment will be toppled with a Sunni regime (Majority and Democracy goes hand in hand don’t they ?). You think Saudi and Egypt will give way for Iranian influence ?

            as for the assessments of the IDF, you are wrong.

            and i suggest you’ll look up in Maariv what Ex. COS Gabi Shkenazi said about attack in Iran yesterday.

            I would appreciate if instead of the usual personal attacks, you’ll actually concentrate in some substance.

          • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2012, 8:34 PM

            And Dan Halutz & Olmert said almost the same as Nasrallah. Safe to say that neither side got what they expected or bargained for. The same will hold true for an Iran- Israel war w the exception that Iran will fully expect to battered & will be. Israel will not know what hit her I’m afraid.

            I don’t know what government will rule Syria. But Israel’s wars against Syria have killed Sunnis & Alawites & enmity against Israel will surmount ethnic differences.

            YOU are the one wrong about the IDF & intelligence circles. Three past Mossad chiefs oppose war. Immediate past Shabak, Mossad & IDF chiefs including Ashkenazi & Gantz oppose war.

            I would argue substance if you offered any. Unfortunately, you don’t.

          • Amir G January 27, 2012, 9:05 PM

            Funny as Dan Halutz himself states the exact opposite from what you claim, as you can see if you’ll actually do some reading.

            אכן, היה אפשר להמשיך ולבחור במדיניות “בת היענה”, לטמון את הראש בחול, ולחשוב שהטילים ימשיכו להחליד. אפשר היה להציע להסתפק בתגובה נקודתית. אפשר היה להמליץ גם על המתנה והתארגנות ארוכה לפעולה, שבמציאות שלנו סביר שלא הייתה מבוצעת. בזמנו חשבתי אחרת. גם היום, עם אותם נתונים בדיוק, הייתי חוזר וממליץ על אותו דפוס פעולה. דפוס פעולה אשר מבוסס על פעולה רחבה באש, ואשר לוקח בחשבון גם אפשרות למהלך קרקעי.

            We could have continue ignoring reality thinking their missiles will continue to gather rust. I could have recommended a limited response. I could have recommended to act after a preparation period. at the time i thought otherwise and recommended a wide spread fire action, today with the same data i would have recommended the same course of action.

            Dan Halutz – October 2009

            (page 46)

          • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2012, 10:06 PM

            Are you arguing that Israelis approve of the Lebanon war or think it was a good thing that they fought it? Because you know that this is false that most Israelis think it was a disaster, some even a disaster of epic proportions. You as well as I know that I can bring scores of such media accounts including the views of Israeli political & military leaders confirming this.

            The tragedy is that if/when Israel attacks Iran the damage to Israel will be far worse than during Lebanon. Meir Dagan, Yuval Diskin, Gabi Ashkenazi, Efraim Halevy & numerous other senior Israeli leaders agree & oppose an attack as does Benny Gantz.

          • quip January 28, 2012, 1:53 AM

            Most Israelis feel that the second Lebanon war was justified, although they are not too happy with the IDF’s performance. That been said, the war was apparently sufficient to in deterring Hezbollah from attacking Israel’s northern towns and cities. As a result, it brought a certain amount of quiet to Lebanon. That is, until the next time Hezbollah decides that it wants to kill some Jews.

          • Richard Silverstein January 28, 2012, 12:31 PM

            Hezbollah doesn’t kill Jews. It kills Israelis. Non Jewish Israelis were killed in the last war. Or does their death not count.

            The question isn’t whether Israelis thought thread justified. The question is the level of damage Israel’s enemies can inflict, which is substantial. Anyone like Barak claiming otherwise is lying to himself & Israelis.

          • Amir G January 28, 2012, 7:08 AM

            First, the subject is not what Israeli’s think but rather what Dan Halutz and Ehud Olmert think, and what you claimed on their behalf was wrong.

            Second, most Israeli’s see the Lebanon war as a failure, but that has nothing to do with the primary decision of going to war. Most Israeli’s supported that, and still support that to date.

            Third, as for your claims about the Iranian retaliation, you didn’t provide any information to substantiate that. Just a lot of words which are based on what you read in the media, which is extremely shallow. You should look up what Prof. Gen Ytizhak Ben-Israel wrote on the subject, you should look at what other folks whit substantial knowledge are saying about the same.

            And last, don’t twist my words, i ( no one in Israel) thinks that a war, any type of war, is like a walk in the park.
            the argument is what’s worse for the people of Israel: Act now and delay the Iranian nuclear weapon development allowing the people more time to topple their regime, or act later after the Iranians will posses nuclear weapons.

            To you – living 1000′s of miles away – the answer is clear. To me living in Israel, the answer is diff. You are committed to the US interest. We are committed to the Israeli one. They may not overlap.

          • Richard Silverstein January 28, 2012, 12:27 PM

            No,the original question was how much damage Israel will face. You argue falsely very little. I argue correctly a great deal & support my claim by noting the suffering caused to Israel by Hezbollah during that war, which will be magnified many times by the addition of Hamas, Iran & possibly Syria to the mix in the next war. You argue entirely unpersuasively that none of them will cause any serious harm to Israel.

            I weary of this conversation. Do not reply. Move on to another thread.

  • Amir G January 26, 2012, 4:35 PM

    * In the war a total of 158 died. 41 civilians and 119 soldiers.

  • HT - Long Beach, CA January 26, 2012, 7:58 PM

    Richard – I agree with the overall premise of your post, but several points, I believe, need clarification.

    Ya’alon is not a “serious policymaker” – he is a minister in Bibi’s government that is far removed from any position of influence. Most everybody in Israel is highly dismissive of him and he is generally considered an idiot.

    Barak’s assertion that there will only be 500 Israelis killed is not a delusion, but rather an outright lie. Barak knows that the numbers will be higher, likely by an order of magnitude or more, but chooses to ignore this in public.

    Your account of the start of the 1967 war is accurate, indeed Israel started the war, but this is hardly a revelation – it is documented in numerous texts. But, two points you have to take into account are (1) Israeli military is mostly reserve based, therefore maintaining it at a high alert level for extended period of time had devastating effects on the Israeli economy. And (2), you neglect to mention the Egyptian blockade of the Tiran straits to Israeli merchant navy traffic, which, by itself, is an act of aggression in defiance of international law, UN treaty and, IIRC, security council resolution. This action gave Israel the right to react to the Egyptian aggression.

    Lastly, a key point to think about is that Netanyahu’s paymaster, his biggest contributor by far especially now that he has driven Ron Lauder away, is Sheldon (“buy me a newspaper”) Adelson, who recently also became Gingrich’s sugar daddy. Considering Netanyahu’s meddling in Republican politics, I would not put it beneath any of them to try and time an Israeli attack on Iran to October 2012 in order to embarrass Obama and cause him to lose the elections due to spike in oil prices and other geo-political consequences. As a side note, on Charlie Rose today, Zbigniev Brzezinski theorized that the main goal of an Israeli attack on Iran is to cause Iran to retaliate against the US and therefore drag the US into the conflict.

    • Things that maky you go hmmmm January 29, 2012, 3:23 PM

      HT: “(1) Israeli military is mostly reserve based, therefore maintaining it at a high alert level for extended period of time had devastating effects on the Israeli economy.”

      It is almost laughable to read someone using “war by bundy” as a valid excuse to attack another country i.e. Israel simply had to attack Egypt when it did, because all those soldiershad to be back at work on Monday……

      HT: “(2), you neglect to mention the Egyptian blockade of the Tiran straits to Israeli merchant navy traffic, which, by itself, is an act of aggression in defiance of international law, UN treaty and, IIRC, security council resolution”

      Ahem. There are a couple of points to make about that claim.

      In no particular order…..

      The navigatable part of the Strait of Tiran runs entirely through Egyptian territorial waters, so if Nasser decides that he doesn’t want any Israeli-flagged vessels to sail through his waterway then int’l law says that he is perfectly entitled to make that decision. He is, after all, the “sovereign power”.

      The claim that Egypt was “aggressively” blocking the Israeli merchant navy from entering Eilat rather runs foul of the fact that there were no Israeli-flagged vessels plying the “Eilat route”.

      That’s why Israel didn’t take up the USA’s suggestion of running a few Israeli vessels thru the strait under US Navy convoy i.e. they simply didn’t have any vessels that they could use to put Nasser’s “resolve” to the test.

  • Arie Brand January 26, 2012, 9:23 PM

    “The Mossad chief went over the CIA officer’s head and flew to Washington where he received a tacit green light from Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to attack.”

    This is quite at odds with the way President Johnson tells the story in The Vantage Point. The US was quite prepared to honor Eisenhowewr’s 1957 commitment on the Gulf of Aqaba and sought to form an international naval squadron to break the blockade. Apart from the US and Britain, the Netherlands and Australia volunteered for this. At the same time Johnson put his hope on further diplomacy and he conveys the impression that this could have been successful if the Israelis hadn’t decided to attack.

    I quote:
    “On the evening of May 26 I met with Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who had just flown to Washington. Our conversation was direct and frank.Eban said that according to Israeli intelligence, the United Arab Republic (UAR) was preparing an all-out attack. I asked Secretary McNamara who was present, to give Mr.Eban a summary of our findings. Three separate intelligence groups had looked carefully into the matter, McNamara said, and it was our best judgment that a UAR attack was not imminent. “All of our intelligence people are unanimous,” I added, “that if the UAR attacks, you will whip hell out of them”

    Abba Eban is an intelligent and sensitive man.. I wanted him to understand the U.S.position fully and clearly , and to communicate what I said to his government. “The central point, Mr.Minister,” I told him, “is that your nation not be the one to bear the responsibility for any outbreak of war.” Then I said very slowly and very positively: “Israel will not be alone unless it decided to go alone.”
    He was quiet and I repeated the statement once more.

    In the meantime, Robert Anderson was in Egypt on business. He met with Nasser on May 31. Their conversation produced an arrangement for UAR Vice President Zakaria Mohieddin to confer with us in Washington on Wednesday, June 7.His visit would have provided another opportunity for personal diplomacy, but it never took place. His trip was canceled by the outbreak of war. We would never know what purpose, if any, that meeting might have served.
    During those trying days I used all the energy and experience I could muster to prevent war.

    I was opposed to using force until I was persuaded that every other avenue was blocked. And we were moving rapidly to explore every possibility.. The week of June 5,1967,would have been one of intensive diplomacy and congressional consultation, if we had had our way.
    Besides Great Britain and the United States, two other nations had agreed to take part in a naval task force – known informally as the Red Sea regatta – if events proved this necessary.The Dutch had expressed their intention to us in writing. Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia, assured me personally in a visit to Washington on June 1 that his country would assign two of its fastest cruisers to the joint task force. We will never know how successful that “regatta” might have been. But I am convinced that Congress as well as the President would have honored President Eisenhower’s 1957 commitment on Aqaba …

    That was the weekend the Israeli cabinet decided to move …They may have feared that the week ahead would bring about a significant relative weakening in their military position … Our military men did not share this fear, and their judgment of relative Israeli-Arab strength proved amazingly accurate as the battle turned out…

    Nonetheless, I have never concealed my regret that Israel decided to move when it did.”

    Johnson makes then a lame attempt to defend Israel against the “oversimplified charge of Israeli aggression” because Arab actions had been so threatening – but his own words seem to invalidate that argument.

    At any case there is no talk here about ‘tacit’ agreement by McNamara (as if the decision were up to him) to an Israeli attack. It also seems to be pretty clear that, since Israel was not willing to wait for that naval squadron to take action, that Aqaba did not rank very highly as a casus belli.

    Johnson might have distorted matters here but I think it more likely that that tale about McNamara’s tacit agreement has been made up.

    • Richard Silverstein January 26, 2012, 11:46 PM

      That’s a very interesting historical source & thanks for offering it. I had no idea about the Johnson-Eban consultation. It sure throws a new light on the entire subject.

  • Arie Brand January 26, 2012, 11:02 PM

    These quotes came from pages 293-297 of The Vantage Point, 1971

  • george a. way jr. January 27, 2012, 4:00 PM

    what does it truly matter how it starts , when it starts ,who starts it and what ever the outcome !!!! , mankind as a whole are just a bunch of idiot’s who think each has the answer to all of our problems!!!! , we have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that ” we ” are incapable of governing ourselves without killing each other or wanting to rule over each other !!!!! , the “CREATOR” of it “ALL” including us, is about to humble this whole stinking “CESSPOOL” that we have created and prove that without “HIM” in charge ” we will end up with dead , all of us!!!!! sooooooooo!!! keep fighting among yourselves and prove “HIM” correct !!!!!!!!!!!!!