BLOG 251 May 4, 2015
The common assumption in the West is that whatever the Prime Minister of Israel says reflects the opinion of the rest of the government. Because Israel is a democratic entity, the generals seldom disagree with the Prime Minister in public. If Netanyahu is opposed to negotiations with IRAN (NOT Israel as previously posted) , so are the generals.
This is not so.
The current disagreement over negotiations with Iran is a case in point.
The recent heated exchange in the media between Netanyahu’s speech to Congress confronting Obama’s position went off like a July 4th fireworks display but soon subsided. The last ten days have seen little in the media as it appears everyone has stepped back and carefully (hopefully) are assessing the actual terms of the agreement. This interim is an opportunity to notice an impasortant dynamic operating in the Israeli government.
The military and the Prime Minister are not on the same page.
In the last two years of his term, Obama will probably face growing hostility and opposition from many quarters. The politicians will provide an ample number of Obama haters and the Israeli-lovers will jump on the band wagon. There are ample reasons to be critical of many of Obama’s decision but the issue with Israel is far more complex that it is currently being portrayed.
For example, a group of American senators recently planned to meet with Mossad chief Tamir Pardo. Netanyahu knew Pardo supported the nuclear talks and canceled the meeting. When foreign affairs committee chair Bob Corker, threatened to return to the USA, Netanyahu rescinded and the meeting was held. What the committee discovered was that Pardo didn’t agree with the Prime Minister and contented that imposing new sanctions would hurt the negotiations. As significant a leader as the head of Israel’s version of the CIA was opposed to Netanyahu’s viewpoint.
Key leaders like the ex-military intelligence chief Yalin, ex-IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, and ex-Mossad chief Efraim Halvey urged Netanyahu to back off and to work with Obama. They insisted he stop trying to scuttle the still unfinished nuclear deal. They believed Israel could not get a better deal than what was currently on the table.
And what followed? In a rare spirit of compromise, on April 14, Corker’s committee took a position that allowed Obama’s negotiations to go forward. The effect was that it split the Netanyahu-Congress alliance and sided with the Obama-Mossad position. The logic was simple. If negotiations failed, Iran would immediately go after a bomb. A US strike would only slow them down by maybe 3 years at best. The Lausanne agreement buys a decade and possibly two to stop Iran’s nuclear pursuits. A much better deal!
The point is that Netanyahu’s end around run at Congress failed at home in Israel. It helped re-elect him but revealed that his own military disagreed with his actions.