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Media Watch | Israeli Paper Reports Major Military Opposition to Iran Strike

by PAUL MUTTER

01 Aug 2012 23:55Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

BennyGantzTableCrop.jpg 11:55 p.m. IRDT, 11 Mordad/August 1 According to a report Wednesday in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that was partially translated into English by the Jewish Daily Forward, anonymous officials have leaked information that key members of Israel's top military brass oppose an attack on Iran. They are said to include Benny Gantz and Ya'akov Ayash, chief of the general staff and chief of operations of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF); Tamir Pardo, head of the Mossad; and Aviv Kochavi, who is in charge of Aman, the military intelligence directorate. (The names of these officials are not given in the original report, only their titles.) Perhaps most notable is that the "department heads" of Mossad are also cited as opposing an attack (Mossad has at least eight departments, of which only six have been publicly identified). The Jerusalem Post added that the unnamed sources speaking to Yedioth Ahronoth were reportedly U.S. officials, and that the head of the Israeli Air Force -- Amir Eshel -- was also among those named as opposing an attack.

The report also noted that at least four members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's eight-man "kitchen cabinet" either oppose an attack or would accept one only as a matter of last resort in the event of an Iranian weaponization breakthrough. Those opposed are reported to be Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor, Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin, Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai, and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon -- who reportedly qualified his dissent by stating that he could support an attack, but only if it were joined by the United States. Shaul Mofaz, the head of the parliamentary opposition, is on record opposing an attack.

This collective opposition to an attack within the Israeli leadership has been reported before in Newsweek and Haaretz, and also in an earlier Yedioth Ahronoth report published in May. Some former officials like retired Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan and Efraim Halevy, former Aman director Shlomo Gazit, and ex-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi also oppose an attack, though like Ya'alon, some of those speaking out have qualified their opposition to allow for an attack performed in collaboration with the U.S. military. Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom is one of the few ex-intelligence leaders who publicly favors a preventive strike by Israeli forces alone.

Chief of Staff Gantz, for one, has now distanced himself from the Yedioth Ahronoth report, saying that he has gone neither to the press nor to U.S. officials to voice discontent, and that the IDF will follow whatever orders it is given by the civilian leadership. Gantz has never ruled out an attack on Iran, but is believed to oppose one due to the difficulty of crippling the program for good and the political fallout that such an attack would surely provoke in the region. The prime minister's office is also pushing back on the report.

This is not the first time that the chief of staff has had a position involving Iran contrary to that of the prime minister attributed to him and then walked back. As noted in bulletin from Iran's Mehr News Agency, Gantz recently told a reporter for Israel's Channel 10 network that Israel was not prepared for war with Iran. That video has since been scrubbed, and online commentaries by the right-wing Israeli news portal Arutz Sheva 7 and the center-right Times of Israel on the comments attributed to Gantz have also been taken down in the past few days without explanation. Such actions by Israeli media outlets are not unusual due to the country's strict military censorship laws (indeed, it is strange that cached versions are still accessible.) Israel media watcher Richard Silverstein says that the retraction by Channel 10 was ordered directly by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has argued in favor of a preemptive strike.

Even so, Netnayahu is apparently concerned enough by the Yedioth Ahronoth report, and perhaps the Channel 10 item as well, that he gone to the press -- something he is generally loath to do, as left-leaning Israeli media outlets often complain -- to warn against any military or intelligence dissension over whatever order he might give on Iran.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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