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Bibi and Barak Recount in TV Documentary Taking Israel to Brink of War with Iran

Ilana Dayan has produced yet another dramatic segment for the Israeli 60 Minutes-like news magazine, Uvdah.  It deals with the history of Israel’s covert war against Iran.  More specifically it recounts a pivotal security cabinet meeting which took place in 2010, at which Prime Minister Netanyahu told the senior security officials present to raise Israel’s military preparedness level to “P+.”  This is essentially one step below actual war.  Mossad chief Dagan and IDF chief Ashkenazi did something rare, if not unheard of in the annals of Israeli political history: they balked.

Dayan reveals that for some strange reason, the Israeli censor refused to allow her to make public the date of the meeting. Through my own source I can say that it occurred in late May or early June 2010. This was shortly after the Mavi Marmara massacre, which was the subject of the meeting (again according to my source). Only at the very end, as attendees were practically walking out the door, did Bibi drop his P+ bomb shell.

But why in God’s name can’t Israelis know the date of the meeting? Will it expose an intelligence source? Offer vital secrets to Iran?

I’m not sure why Dayan claims all knowledge and discussion of this meeting was under military censorship, because several outlets have spoken very clearly about the meeting and what happened, though not with the level of specificity she brings here. Perhaps she means that the participants in the meeting were sworn to silence till now.

At any rate, now Dagan, Ashkenazi, Barak and Netanyahu have broken their silence with the sort of KABOOM! one only sees watching old Batman TV shows.  The language was flinty and unvarnished.  Dagan raged that Bibi was engaging in an “illegal act.” That he intended to “steal a war” by refusing to bring the matter to the full cabinet for a vote.  Ashkenazi flat-out said that the IDF was not prepared for war against Iran.  They both said raising the military preparedness level to just short of outright war would virtually guarantee there was one.  They wanted none of it.  Eventually, by the end of the meeting all agreed there would be no change and Bibi never brought the subject up again.

But the debate caused bruised egos and bad blood between Bibi and Dagan and between Barak and Ashkenazi.  Within a year both would be out of their jobs.

The interviews are so riveting and compelling it’s easy to forget that the subjects are themselves acting a role.  You have to restrain yourself from wanting to believe every word spoken (though perhaps the impact might be different on an Israeli viewer who grew up with these figures and feels more cynical towards them).  For example, the documentary begins with a recounting of the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.  Then, Ehud Olmert tells Dayan how hard it is to make the decision to take a man’s life because you know the morning he’s to die that he’s said goodbye to his wife and children, who know nothing of what’s to befall him.  Great television.  But believable?  Not for a second.

Olmert himself once boasted to the Jerusalem Post that Israel would assassinate Yasser Arafat, and according to Clayton Swisher’s Al Jazeera report may’ve done precisely that.  If anyone thinks that Olmert or any Israeli prime minister or general has misgivings about killing purported Israeli enemies, they’re living a fantasy.  Remember what Dan Halutz said when asked whether his conscience was rattled when he had to order a killing: “about as much as my plane shudders when I drop a bomb” on one of these terrorists.

Anyone who expects moral qualms or tortured debates on the nature of good and evil from Israeli policymakers will surely be disappointed.  Israelis don’t ponder.  They act.  Even if the act turns out to be disastrous, there’s such a premium on action that it doesn’t matter.

One sees the delusion clearly in Olmert’s remarks, when he says that the reason he killed Iranian scientists was because they’re trying to kill his children and grandchildren. Dayan nods sympathetically as he intones these heavy words as if they both understand that the burden placed on a prime minister is too heavy and profound for anyone to truly understand. When the truth is that Olmert is spouting absolute nonsense.

Might such a scientist be pursuing research leading to an Iranian nuclear weapon? Possibly. But only if Iran’s Supreme Leader gives approval for the nation to build and deploy such a weapon. Not to mention that killing an individual scientist or five, as Israel has done, will not demonstrably weaken or deter Iran’s pursuit of nuclearization if that is its ultimate goal.

Is that enough certainty to justify a sentence of death on such an individual? Clearly in the Israeli universe it is. It might pass muster in the Obama White House as well, since it’s proven to be a bit happy-go-lucky about maintaining kill lists and offing Muslims. But for the rest of us–not so much.

In a subsequent segment, Dayan takes us through a tour of the government conference rooms where the decisions were made and debated and, with pensive music setting the background, she intones that these matters came to the fore when “it became clear that Iran wanted a nuclear weapon.” To whom did it become clear? Not to the IAEA. Not to those who compiled the National Intelligence Estimate in 2007. But it became clear to Ilana Dayan because Bibi and Barak told her so. The level of credulousness here is simply astounding.

Dayan addresses the NIE Estimate and says with deep shock that its claim that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 was the “opposite of everything known to Israeli intelligence.” Once again, we see this breathless embrace of Israel’s security apparatus as ultimate arbiter of truth, when such trust should’ve been examined if not rejected many times over by any serious, skeptical journalist.

She brings forth former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who recounts the first time he was given the NIE report by an American official. He says that he was so shaken by its claims that he returned to Israel and created a Red and Blue team whose mission was to tear apart on the one hand, and uphold on the other, the U.S. claim. We’re supposed to feel reassured that no one on either team could support the American claim “based on the evidence that we [Israel] had.” This last phrase is very important because it tacitly acknowledges that the U.S. may’ve had intelligence information not available to the Israelis. But of course, the intent of these words is to make the Israeli audience believe U.S. intelligence had produced a report that was simply daft. Something that any reasonable observer of these matters knows is simply not true.

The documentary takes us back to 2002 and the days of Ariel Sharon’s prime ministership, and says he was the first Israeli leader who believed Iran wanted to produce a nuclear weapon. The interviewees, all intimates of Sharon, make clear that Israel had no intelligence capacity at that time concerning Iran. Which meant that Sharon was making such a judgment based on nothing more than his own hunch. To add gravitas to Sharon’s sense, they note that his genius was as a field commander who makes such snap judgments often. Apparently, they’ve never heard of field commanders who actually make battle decisions based on intelligence rather than on hunches sprung from thin air.

The choice of interview subjects made by the producers is also telling. They interview only figures from the Bush administration including such war hawks as Elliot Abrams who says on camera: “I don’t think we had any doubt [in 2007] about where the Ayatollahs wanted to go. They wanted to build a nuclear weapon.” Yet another specious claim that reinforces other specious claims put forward by the Israelis till you have a perfect self-reinforcing system based almost entirely on false or unfounded assumptions.

Dayan saves her interview with Bibi Netanyahu for last. And here the level of self-delusion is astounding. After she warns him that through a deep sense of the fatefulness of Jewish history, that he may be leading Israel to a very dangerous place, she asks whether there is evidence he could show her that would prove to her that his fears are well-founded and that she should share them. To this, Netanyahu responds that there are “libraries” full of such evidence and that there is no doubt that Iran’s intent is to annihilate Israel. He says this with straight face, with the conviction of the best of actors. But that is all that he is–an actor who plays a politician. A convincing one. But still an actor whose lines are ultimately unconvincing.

The final question asked of Netanyahu is: Can you promise that by the end of your next term, Iran will not have a nuclear program.” To which he answers with a simple, Yes. With this he tells yet another bald-faced lie. A lie that presumably most Israelis won’t hold against him because they don’t take it seriously. But I’m old-fashioned that way, while I may understand that politicians lie, it offends me when they lie so unashamedly and when they must know that they are lying.

There is no possible way that anyone can guarantee that Iran will not have a nuclear program in four years. Unless of course you were willing to commit your nation to send tens of thousands of troops to overthrow the current government. Then of course you might get your wish. But no one short of Elliot Abrams or Michael Ledeen foresees such an eventuality. Which makes Bibi one helluva liar.

Let’s talk about whether Bibi intends to attack Iran.  Even if we doubt it–and many bloggers and journalists who should know better have declared without any doubt that either he doesn’t or he can’t or whatever–in Iran the prime minister has a perfect election manifesto.  It is a huge smokescreen that obscures every other issue that might trouble the campaign: problem with social issues?  Trot out the ayatollahs.  Problem with the budget?  Those friggin’ Iranians want to bring another Shoah on us.

The beauty of Iran is that he can use it freely as his personal political cudgel.  But after the election he can use it or not as he chooses.  No one will call him to account after the election if he doesn’t go to war.  In the meantime, he’ll have another four year mandate to further transform Israel into the sort of State that would’ve made Meir Kahane proud.

I’m watching with a certain degree of amusement as it begins to dawn on Israeli politicians and media that their prime minister has virtually promised Israel a war with Iran all the while thumbing his nose at the U.S. president who won re-election, to their chagrin. With Obama’s victory last night, Israelis who may’ve deluded themselves into thinking it was possible they might have a much more malleable president in Mitt Romney, now awaken to the fact that they’ve got a guy they believe is their worst nightmare.

MK Danny Danon wasted no time is wishing his American friends well. His message of congratulations went like this: we won’t bend for Obama. No doubt for this reason, Bibi has directed all ministers not to make any public statements about the elections without prior coördination with his office.  He himself dutifully traveled to the U.S. ambassador’s residence to get his bear hug from one of Israel’s biggest sycophants in the Obama administration, Dan Shapiro.

Again, this is terribly amusing. It’s as if the prime minister thinks if he can just shove a sock in the mouths of his ministers that Obama and the rest of America won’t know what the Likud really thinks of our president-elect. I hate to be a broken record about this, but the level of self-delusion simply astounds.

Lest the pro-Israel right worry that Obama may make Bibi pay the price for his political lap-dance with Mitt Romney–not a chance.  Obama has proven time and again that he has neither the stomach, nor the political guile to navigate the shoals of the Israeli-Arab conflict and its attendant complexities.  Obama will not brook the Israel lobby.  He will not make it or Bibi pay the price for their perfidy during the election.  No worries folks, the pro-Israel juggernaut is safe and will live to fight another day.  Barack Obama will not rock Israel’s boat.

I do have a feeling though that Obama may be more robust than he ordinarily would’ve been in opposing any attack on Iran.  Chances are had Bibi played his cards right Obama might’ve given a tacit green light.  But I doubt Israel will see anything but red on this score.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Nimrod November 8, 2012, 1:52 AM

    I saw Dayan’s program, and comparing it to 60 Minutes does not do any justice to 60 Minutes. The program felt like watching an elections broadcast for Mr Olmert. She asked very easy question that their answers would portray him as worthy competitor to be Israeli PM, and not the convicted criminal, and failed politician that was kicked out of office due to his failures.

    just a small correction regarding the Dan Halutz remark:
    “Remember what Dan Halutz said when asked whether his conscience was rattled when he had to order a killing”
    He was asked how does it feel to drop a 250kg bomb on a terrorist’s house (actual question was much longer) – that was right after the assassination of Salah Shehade, the leader of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades who was responsible to the killing of hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, where his wife and some of his children were killed with him.
    Halutz response was only 3 words: מכה קטנה בכנף – meaning a small blow to the wing.

    • Richard Silverstein November 8, 2012, 8:31 PM

      Mary Hughes Thompson’s comment has shown that your “small correction” was actually in error, since my characterization of Halutz’s comment was accurate. He wasn’t asked what it felt like to kill a terrorist. He was asked what it felt like to kill 18 civilians (not just his wife and some of his children). This, btw is a war crime for which Halutz & Almog will eventually face prosecution (I predict).

      As for whether the Uvdah program was a Valentine to Olmert, maybe so. But Olmert didn’t acquit himself any better than Barak or Netanyahu. I agree with you that Olmert is a crook. But so are both Barak (likely) and Bibi (assuredly).

      • Nimrod November 8, 2012, 10:55 PM

        Regarding your last sentence – I couldn’t agree more.

  • pabelmont November 8, 2012, 7:00 AM

    Gotta love this happy-go-lucky Israeli designation of people as death-deserving-without-due-process “terrorists”. Were they as clear on the evil of terrorism when Begin and Shamir were practicing terrorism in 1945-1948? When Begin’s irregulars (terrorists?) perhaps aided by Jewish Agency’s irregulars (Hagana: terrorists? or army in waiting? or “freedom fighters”) performed the massacre at Deir Yassin?

    Please note the the ever-so-finicky-about-terrorists USA has nevertheless managed to celebrate the Hagana in a brass sidewalk plaque on the sidewalks of New York City.

    There’s nothin’ like the power of dominating the narrative, just nothing’.

    • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy November 8, 2012, 11:48 AM

      There’s nothin’ like the power of dominating the narrative, just nothing’.

      I could not agree with you more. This is the ultimate weapon used by them. I am both an Arab and Muslim and I can say that our MAIN faliure is in failing to understand that simple fact!

    • Nimrod November 8, 2012, 12:32 PM

      Some people just deserve to die.
      Salah Shehade, for example, was responsible to the murder of hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings in the early 2000’s.
      Sort of a local version of Osama Bin Laden.

      • Richard Silverstein November 8, 2012, 1:44 PM

        You’ve just made an especially gross violation of my comment rules which clearly state you may not justify the murder of anyone, which you have done. You will be banned. If you wish to have the ban removed you will read the comment rules & communicate to me that you’ve done so, that you understand them & that you will respect & follow them. Till then, you’re toast.

        Go celebrate murder somewhere else. And as for the murder of Shehadeh, you don’t know the history of that killing either. You’re a lame, misinformed person.

        I want to make clear that there are some commenters who violate the rules who I want to ban. There are some who do, but who I don’t want to ban. You are in the latter category. Nothing in your previous comments made me feel I would’ve needed to do this (until now). But I simply cannot allow any commenter here to justify murder.

      • Cliff November 9, 2012, 3:25 PM


        So Salah Shehade is a mini-Bin Laden?

        Bin Laden isn’t even a mini-Bin Laden.

        The US and Israel always make their respective villains out to be worse than Hitler (only because said villains are contemporary).

        So back to the mini-Bin Laden line – what does that make Israel? Colonialism, apartheid, institutional racism, ethnic cleansing, murder and assassination, etc. etc.

        And that’s just what Israel does in it’s own borders and the Palestinians’.

  • Fred Plester November 8, 2012, 9:27 AM

    Obama cannot promise American military support if he’s been told, in as many words, that he cannot use British or Cypriot bases to support an act of war. (This would commit the UK to a war it had no part in starting, which means that Cameron cannot, in fact, say anything else because his “I’m not Tony Blair” legislation was all about not starting wars without the approval of Parliament.)

    Apart from being British Sovereign territory, crass American use of Cypriot bases might raise tension between Greece and Turkey and risk a war of an even more nightmarish kind. (One, where, gasp, huge amounts of German, Dutch and Swedish money might be lost! Though I expect that Downing Street places the well being of Cypriots well ahead of the well being of European bankers and officials.)

    However, it doesn’t all go Iran’s way, because there’s a growing consensus that Assad has got to go sooner rather than later, and that really does leave Iran without regional allies. Assad’s fall would also crystalize debate within Iran over how much people want the present regime to continue.

  • Ben Bedell November 8, 2012, 12:07 PM

    Richard: You would be doing the world a great service if you were to provide an audio translation the Chanel 2 interviews.

    • Richard Silverstein November 8, 2012, 8:29 PM

      If a reader wants to pay for a professional (paid) translator to do this, I’d be happy to arrange it . But doing a full translation would be quite an onerous task for me, especially unpaid.

  • Mary Hughes-Thompson November 8, 2012, 7:47 PM

    Dan Halutz’ comment concerned specifically his feelings after ordering the bombing of a building in Gaza which killed more than a dozen sleeping women and children:
    Q: “What do you feel when you drop a 1-ton bomb on a residential building?”
    A: “A slight bump to the (airplane’s) wing”
    link to richardsilverstein.com

  • dickerson3870 November 9, 2012, 9:45 PM

    RE: “Not to mention that killing an individual scientist or five, as Israel has done, will not demonstrably weaken or deter Iran’s pursuit of nuclearization if that is its ultimate goal.” ~ R.S.

    MY COMMENT: In fact, drawing upon the absurd argument(s) we constantly hear from the warmongers here in America, the Iranians might consequently feel as though they owe it (have a duty) to the assassinated Iranian scientists and their families to develop nuclear arms (even if that was not actually the original goal, but might nonetheless be perceived by their enemies as having been their goal), so that their Iranian scientists will not be perceived as having “died in vain”, Allah forbid!. And they certainly wouldn’t want their “boys” to be seen as having “died in vain”! With absolutely “nothing to show for it”! That would be such a “waste”! That would make the Iranian government look so “weak”! Then no one would “respect” them, and what little deterrence Iran might have had against being attacked (or “regime-changed”) by the U.S. and/or Israel would be “completely lost”!
    We Americans would certainly never let something like that happen to the U.S.! We would never “cut and run”! We would never “back down”! We would always “see it through to the end”! We would always be able to say “mission accomplished”! We would never let our “boys” be said to have “died in vain”! We would always “stay the course”, of course! Whatever the cost! No matter the cost, whether in lives or treasure! ! !

    • Javaad November 12, 2012, 1:44 AM

      I assure you that the Iranians don’t think that we owe it to our assisinated scientists to develop weapons. We started a peaceful research into the positive uses of nuclear technology some 40 years ago under the Shah and now it’d be logical to enjoy the fruits of our hard labour and sacrifices, monetary and politically.

      The ancient and cultivé Iranian psyche has one founding principle: you are entitled to defend what is rightly yours. Examples can be seen in the battle of Karbala where the 3rd Shiite/Iranian saint and his 72 disciples ultimately decided to fight a battle against an army of tens of thousands strong mainly composed of Arab Sunnis. They did, they lost the battle but won the war which has kept their memory and the cause they gave their lives for alive for us Iranians. During the per-Islamic era, our ancient prophet Zoroaster was martyred in similar circumstances. A modern example is the 8-year-long imposed war on Iran where Saddam’s Iraq was armed to the teeth by the so called world powers and the Arab League. The war has sent us back years in terms of infrastructure but our cause is alive because we defended our rights, a just cause which is the underlying principle of Shiite Islam: justice.

      The current regime will reform ultimately and a more West-friendly administration will take charge but neither will give up on our right to nuclear research. As we know there is an undiscovered world of possibilities beyond weapons of mass murder in nuclear research just like any other science. My question is: if this were a race, why should your opponent let you reach the next stop first? There are competitors in this race that enjoy ‘referee’ favouritism but as in my examples above we’ll carry on at our own pace towards prosperity and development.

      As for the general consensus inside Iran regarding the nuclear research programme, if a referendum were to be held today 99% would cast a yes vote for nuclear research. A similar number would regard the shouting and barking by Israeli politicians as a nuisance in need of a proper sort-out, knowing a dog that barks doesn’t bite.

  • dickerson3870 November 10, 2012, 12:42 AM

    RE: “Lest the pro-Israel right worry that Obama may make Bibi pay the price for his political lap-dance with Mitt Romney–not a chance. Obama has proven time and again that he has neither the stomach, nor the political guile to navigate the shoals of the Israeli-Arab conflict and its attendant complexities. Obama will not brook the Israel lobby.” ~ R.S.

    MY COMMENT: During this upcoming four years, the Israeli-Arab conflict will be Obama’s “Chinatown”. Expect to see a heavily camouflaged policy of “benign neglect”.


    Evelyn Mulwray: “Tell me, Mr. Gittes: Does this often happen to you?”
    Jake Gittes: “Actually, this hasn’t happened to me for a long time.”
    Evelyn Mulwray: “When was the last time?”
    Jake Gittes: “Why?”
    Evelyn Mulwray: “It’s an innocent question.”
    Jake Gittes: “In Chinatown.”
    Evelyn Mulwray: “What were you doing there?”
    Jake Gittes: “Working for the District Attorney.”
    Evelyn Mulwray: “Doing what?”
    Jake Gittes: “As little as possible.”
    Evelyn Mulwray: “The District Attorney gives his men advice like that?”
    Jake Gittes: “They do in Chinatown.”

    SOURCE – SOURCE – link to imdb.com

    P.S. “FREE DON” SIEGELMAN PETITION – link to change.org

    • dickerson3870 November 12, 2012, 4:07 PM

      P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “Obama and the Israel lobby: Quo vadis?”, By Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 11/09/12

      [EXCERPTS] . . . So now that Obama’s got a second term, will he blithely ignore AIPAC et al and pursue an even-handed approach to the Middle East peace process?
      Don’t bet on it. For starters, the election didn’t show that the traditional “status quo lobby” was substantially weaker. Why? Because Obama caved to these groups a long time ago, and there was hardly any daylight between him and Romney on this issue. . .
      . . . But the election is over, and the second term beckons. Won’t Obama be tempted to secure a legacy as a peacemaker (remember that Nobel Prize?), and go back to his original vision of “two states for two peoples?” I don’t think so. Conditions in the region aren’t propitious: Israel continues to drift rightward, Netanyahu is overwhelmingly likely to be reelected, and the tumult of the Arab spring is bound to make everyone more cautious (and with good reason). The Palestinian Authority is less and less popular, and even if he wanted to, Mahmoud Abbas could never persuade his followers to accept the one-sided Bantustan arrangement that is Netanyahu’s idea of a “Palestinian state.” Obama doesn’t have to run for re-election again but Congressional Dems do, and they’ll put the same pressure on him in 2014 that they did in 2010 if he tries to force Netanyahu to abandon his vision of “greater Israel.” The bottom line: No U.S. pressure on Israel, and thus no chance for a deal.
      If you’re Barack Obama, in short, this just doesn’t look like a smart place to invest a lot of time, effort, and political capital. Plus, my hunch is that he’s going to try to secure his legacy by “nation-building” here at home, not by pursuing the elusive grail of Middle East peace. For that matter, if he decides to spend any political capital in that part of the world, it will be on Iran, not Israel-Palestine. Meanwhile, Congress will reflexively vote the aid package and sign whatever goofy letters and resolutions that AIPAC dreams up. Politicians and policy wonks will continue to pay homage to the “special relationship,” lest they come under fire from the lobby and its various watchdogs and smear artists. . .

      ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

  • Javaad November 10, 2012, 1:25 PM

    I can’t watch this as I keep getting a message in Hebrew supposedly telling me the video is only available in Israel or that it’s unavailable in my country (UK). Could you provide an alternative link? or a direct download link please Richard?

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