The titular head of the leading Mizrahi political party, Shas, has publicly stated his opposition to an Iran attack (Hebrew). Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is not just the spiritual leader of Orthodox Mizrahi Jews, he’s also the godfather of its political movement. His senior cabinet representative, Eli Yishai, will therefore oppose any effort to attack Iran. Yisahi is also one of the eight most senior cabinet members who will have the decisive vote on whether to attack. Shas is one of the largest of the governing coalition members aside from Likud, and therefore commands a great deal of authority. If there is an attack, Bibi Netanyahu risks a split in his coalition, though it’s not clear Shas would leave should there be one.
Amnon Abramovitch, the respected political correspondent of Israel’s Channel 2 news, reports this story in Yediot Achronot (not available online). But he precedes it with a recitation of a long list of errors, disasters and miscalculations credited to either Bibi or Barak while each was prime minister: including the second Intifada, the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon, the failed assassination of Khaled Meshal, the Mavi Marmara massacre, the only cancelled IDF chief of staff nomination in Israeli history, failed negotiations with Syria, etc.
He quotes an especially outrageous recent claim by Barak:
The Iranian response to our attack won’t be 50,000 dead, nor 5,000, not even 500 if people would just stay inside their homes.
The journalist asks, with more than a hint of sarcasm, what if the war between Israel doesn’t even last as long as the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war; what if, say, it only last two or three years. Are we not supposed to leave our homes the whole time?
The message is clear: these are the “adults” whom Israel has chosen to lead them into this war with Iran. These are the ones with the vision and operational capabilities to conduct this war and lead it to its successful conclusion. Abramovitch states clearly (though it isn’t clear whether he means this ironically or seriously) Bibi and Barak are among the best of what Israel has to offer. The journalist’s clear conclusion is that if this is our best, then we are indeed in a sorry state. Given their abysmal track record, what makes anyone think that the next war will end any differently than the list of failures outlined above?
That’s where Ovadia Yoself comes in. Abramovitch calls him the only “responsible adult” among all of the Israeli leadership. He means this slightly ironically as well, since Yoself is known for his iconoclastic, odd views in which, like Pat Robertson, he blames the world’s catastrophes on Israel’s sinning in the eyes of God. Similarly, he blamed Ariel Sharon’s stroke on his withdrawal from Gaza. The implicit statement is: if Yosef is the sole responsible adult among this bunch, boy are we in trouble. But he is responsible and as such should be heeded, at least on this matter.
Bibi and Barak have done their best to whisper their words of strategy and enticement into the Rabbi’s ears in order to persuade him of the necessity of an attack. But he seems to be having none of it. He treats them like little chicks whose eyes aren’t even yet open. And given their track record, they don’t deserve much more consideration than that. Despite the fact that Yosef is an aged leader and Bibi and Barak may long for the day when he will be gathered to his ancestors, that day hasn’t yet arrived. Until it does, Yosef will be not just a thorn in their side in this matter, but a profound impediment to their plans.
At the age of 91, Yosef seems to be the only responsible adult exercising any judgment in running the country. The older he is, the more responsible. If only some of that sagacity would rub off on his youngers, Israel’s two political hot shots so eager for war against Iran.
On a related subject, Iran exposed the identity of one of Mossad’s key intelligence operatives inside Azerbijian who has been responsible for a good deal of the mayhem happening inside the former nation. He is Ja’far Khoshzaban, and Iran has called upon Azerbijian to arrest him and has also called for that country to stop giving free rein to Israeli intelligence operations targeted against it. An Iranian majlis member has accused Azeri government officials of aiding and abetting CIA and Mossad activities inside the country which led to the most recent assassination of an Iranian scientist.
If there is a large Israeli intelligence presence inside Azerbijian, this would explain why Iran and/or Hezbollah might’ve wanted to plant a bomb in the Israeli embassy there. Israel and Azerbijian claim to have disrupted such a plot recently. For its part, many in the senior echelons of the Azeri government are calling for closer ties with western intelligence agencies, which would strengthen Iran’s fears of plots against it emanating from there.