by Dr. Gabi Avital
The past decade has seen the development of a "security intelligence" circle, composed of the elite members of the defense establishment, whose political and media connections span far and wide. This group includes the former heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet security agency, military generals, etc., and it is unique in the fact that the opinions voiced by its members on matters of military, security, and the peace process are uniform. And when this group's members are interviewed in the media, they are perceived as professionals and not, heaven forbid, as politicians.
Among the members of this group is former Israel Atomic Energy Commission Director-General Brig. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Eilam. In his recent interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Eilam stressed that his opinions represented the unequivocal truth and were devoid of any political undertone, therefore his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies regarding the Iranian threat was purely professional.
Netanyahu's focus on a nuclear Iran, he said, "is meant to score political points and it makes the public unnecessarily anxious."
Eilam and President Shimon Peres are the only two state officials to still tout their objections to the 1981 strike of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. At the time, Eilam peddled an apocalyptic scenario of what will happen should Israel strike the Iraqi reactor, while Peres opted for a more poetic prediction, saying Israel would become "a lone juniper tree in the desert."
In his interview, Eilam said that Iraq was still a decade away from any nuclear capability, making the strike unnecessary. In his opinion, he said, that is the case with Iran today. It may sound good, but it is clear from the interview that if he could, Eilam would vote against a strike on Iran. "Israel must not be the only one to take on such a mission," he said.
In an interview Eilam gave the Russian website Trent in December 2011, however, he warned that Iran was mere months away of having a nuclear bomb. Other interviews have him lauding Netanyahu's U.N. addresses and his urging of the international community to impose relentless economic sanctions on Iran until it yields. This also sounds good, but next he stated that the predictions warning that Iranian missiles would rain on Israel are exaggerated.
I happen to share that opinion, and I have said as much several times, using this exact platform. But what is troubling is that the predictions of doom are expressed by those who, like Eilam, oppose a strike on Iran.
What is even more troubling about Eilam's position on the matter is the levity with which the possibility of a nuclear Iran is taken. I agree with his assessment that Iran is unlikely to be the first to strike, but the ramifications are still immediate and horrendous. One could, heaven forbid, cause Israel to wither by the mere threat of a nuclear attack -- without actually using a bomb. That is where the fundamental difference between the threat of conventional missiles "raining" on Israel and the nuclear threat lies.
Israel could strike Iran -- it has already demonstrated it has the necessary capability. The pseudo-rational reasons touted by the "security intelligence" circle against such a move are politically biased, not to mention, voiced by individuals with colossal strategic failures to their name.
Political considerations are rooted in one's worldview and there is nothing wrong with that. The prime minister's considerations are based on his own perception -- as they should be. Especially since unlike the members of this circle who, for the most part, are affiliated with the Left, the prime minister is replaced from time to time.
Dr. Gabi Avital
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