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Bibi a Republican, Dagan a Democrat?

Not exactly, but Israeli politics are entering America

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Prime Minister Netanyahu on Capitol Hill last week.(Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

If you’re hearing less talk about Iran this week than last week, it’s not because Iran has suddenly gotten serious about negotiations or being honest with international inspectors. It’s because Prime Minister Netanyahu has left town. And, as should be clear to even mildly close observers, the Iranian nuclear crisis, while real—a theocratic rogue state developing bomb-related technologies—has been especially in the news because Netanyahu, acting for what he believes are Israel’s best interests, has put it there. Under a different Israeli prime minister, we may not be talking about Iran at all.

Jeff Goldberg considers whether Bibi has been bluffing, “creating conditions in which U.S., Western, and Arab leaders believe that they must deny Iran its dream of nuclear weapons or else suffer the chaotic fallout of a precipitous, paranoia-driven Israeli attack.” Goldberg isn’t completely endorsing this view. But it’s a sign of the extent to which Netanyahu has been able to force Iran onto the international—and specifically U.S.—agenda that it seems even remotely plausible.

GQ’s Marin Cogan was being clever but not cheeky in putting Netanyahu at the top of her Washington power list last week. “On the night before Super Tuesday,” she noted, “it wasn’t the primaries most news anchors and political types were obsessing over—it was Netanyahu’s visit to the White House.” More than a few cracked wise after his masterful address to Congress last May that Netanyahu should be the Republican nominee; I found him similarly brilliant at AIPAC, a thoroughly American pageant, last week. Aaron David Miller described Bibi to Cogan as “a key GOP player.” Netanyahu grew up in the States and speaks English with an accent half-Israeli and half-Philadelphian; he got a graduate degree at M.I.T.

Bibi’s hawkish position has given Republicans, including frontrunner Mitt Romney (who last week published an angry op-ed accusing President Obama of fecklessness on Iran) and the Republican Jewish Coalition (which launched a new ad last week), cover to turn what might be a fairly useful foreign policy issue—after all, even Obama acknowledges that Iran’s nuclear program is an American problem, not merely an Israeli one—into the defining national security issue of the campaign, one that has come to stand as a totem for the president’s basic values. Last week, Obama took the bait, punching back at Republicans, “wrapped up in politics,” he said, “beating the drums of war.” (In Zion Square yesterday, Gershom Gorenberg put it more bluntly: “Loose lips launch wars. For heaven’s sake, Netanyahu and his Republican friends should shut up.”)

If there is new Iran news this week, it is the interview former Mossad chief Meir Dagan gave 60 Minutes Sunday night. Since retiring a year ago, Dagan has been the most prominent Israeli voice publicly agitating against an attack, a line he reiterated to Lesley Stahl. The segment builds up Dagan’s credibility as the hard-nosed spy chief more responsible than anyone else for destroying Syria’s nascent nuclear program. At the same time, it suggests that Dagan might be getting revenge on Netanyahu for forcing him out following the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabouh in Dubai in January 2010. It’s an epically ludicrous insinuation: Dagan was one of the Mossad’s longest-serving chiefs; another former Mossad chief chastised Romney for warmongering; and as for Dubai, from the way it is invariably referred to as a “mishap,” a “disaster,” or a “catastrophe,” you would think it did not succeed at all.

“An attack on Iran before exploring all other approaches is not the right way,” Dagan argued. “You are going to ignite—at least from my point of view—a regional war. And wars you know how you start, you never know how you are ending it.” The segment is must-view-YouTube. It cuts through the politics and heads right for the facts and the logic.

In Iran Standoff Netanyahu May Be Bluffing [Bloomberg View]
The Weekly Power List: 03.09.12 [GQ Death Race]
Obama Scolds GOP Critics of Iran Policy [NYT]
Related: Uncloaked [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Meir Dagan, For The Opposition

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Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

“Under a different Israeli prime minister, we may not be talking about Iran at all.”

What has MT been smoking? The Iranian nukes threat has been a major issue, one way or another, for **ALL** Israeli PMs since Rabin decided to try the ill-fated Oslo Accords so Israel could focus its attentions on the Iranian threat. Bibi tried to get Clinton (to no avail; he was too busy with his “cigars”) to recognize the threat. Ehud Barak justified his unilateral pullout from Lebanon in part to try and weaken Iranian influence in the region (boy did that backfire). Ditto for his attempts to settle up with Assad the Father.

Sharon appointed Dagan to head the Mossad in part to rehabilitate it after the lackluster leadership of Efraim Halevy, with the specific mission to use the Mossad’s tools of the trade to slow down Iran’s march to nukes. Sharon and even more so Olmert assumed (quite wrongly) that Bush the Younger would not leave office without dealing with Iran.

In short ANY past or present or theoretical PM (including the Great White Hope) would have dealt with the issue; and as Iran continues its progress, any PM would have had to go public on the issue if only to push the EUniks & Obamanoids toward sanctions.

For the umpteenth time, the issue of Iranian nukes cuts across the entire political spectrum in Israel, and the different opinions on how to deal with the issue do not follow the usual left-right divide.

“Dagan’s … more responsible than anyone else for destroying Syria’s nascent nuclear program.”

Actually the pilots who flew the jets are more responsible than anyone else. I believe that IDF military intelligence and their commando units had an awful lot (probably more than the Mossad) to do with identifying the threat and getting the hard evidence that plutonium was to be made there.

It seems that that MT has deified Dagan not because of what he did but because of his currently quite PC position.


J’lem / Efrata

The attention being given Netanyahu and the Iran issue in Western political circles is actually quite ironic, for a reason that I haven’t seen anybody mention. For decades, the Palestinians have won respect and sympathy from the West by being recklessly violent, while the relatively restrained, peace-seeking Israelis repeatedly got the back of the West’s hand. Now Netanyahu has, in effect, borrowed a page from Arafat’s playbook, and is loudly announcing his willingness to go to war, even at the cost of igniting the whole region–and potentially bringing substantial suffering upon his own people–if the West doesn’t line up behind him. And to a large extent, it’s working.

Needless to say, this is terrible strategy all around on the part of Western governments. By rewarding belligerence, they have only assured continued belligerence.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

As part of his periodic paean to Meir Dagan last week, MT wrote that Dagan represents the view of the Israeli intelligence community. This could only come from someone who knows little about Israel and nothing about its intelligence community.

Less than 3 weeks ago ex-IDF Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin had an OpEd in the NY Times explaining why time to strike at Iran is running out, at least from an Israeli perspective. Yadlin’s stint at MilIntel overlapped with the Dagan’s at the Mossad. A seasoned F-16 pilot (who took part in the Osirak reactor hit) Yadlin also headed the IAF’s planning division and rose to Deputy Commander of the IAF. In short his view what should be done and what is doable is no less valid than Dagan’s. Maybe even more so.

Deciding or even knowing, what are Israel’s capabilities in terms of neutralizing Iran’s nukes is out of Dagan’s bailiwick. Not his job. He likely has a general idea, more than the average Israeli, maybe more than any journalist, but not much beyond that. Experience has taught Israel the importance of compartmentalization and that critically sensitive and important information is shared on a “need to know basis”. Dagan had no need to know. His job was to find what the Iranians have done, where things are hidden, who does what, and sabotage whatever possible.

There probably very few who REALLY know what damage Israel can wreak on the Iranian nuke facilities. And they’re not talking.

BTW, there always was, is, and will be disagreement among the military & intel bigwigs on these sorts of issues. MilIntel & the IAF commander tried to dissuade Begin from the Osirak strike. Among other senior IAF officers there was much disagreement as to whether it could be pulled off. Ditto among the Intel officers. Begin let them all have their say and then decided. A similar situation seems to have existed before the Syrian reactor strike. So that there may be disagreement now among the Mil & Intel bigwigs is to be expected.


Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Mr. Binjamin Netanjahu is not a Republican, and Mr. Meir Dagan is not a Democrat. Both are Jewish and Israeli patriots who care deeply about Israel’s security and the well being of its citizens. They may see certain aspects differently, as people often do. Therefore, no need to dramatize such different opinions.

On a slightly different subject, the Arab Israeli conflict, I wish to share a four point contour for peace that was unveiled at the Knesset:

1) Jerusalem will remain united under Israel’s sovereignty and will also include the suburbs of Giv’at Zeev and Ma’aleh Adumim

2) All major Jewish settlement blocs will be incorporated into the sovereign state of Israel

3) The Jordan Valley must be viewed in the widest sense of the term and it too will be rule by Israel

4) A future Palestinian state will not be a regular one in that it will be demilitarized, its airspace will be totally controlled by Israel as will its boundaries and all border passes: land, sea and air

The above was not pronounced by a “Republican” Israeli but rather by the then chairman of the Labor party of Israel and Israel prime minister, the late Mr. Yitzhaq Rabin in his last speech at the Knesset in October 1995.

Was Rabin a “right wing” or a “Republican”…?? Of course not!! Mr. Rabin was simply a pragmatic person and an Israeli patriot, as are Mr. Netanjahu and Mr. Dagan.


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Bibi a Republican, Dagan a Democrat?

Not exactly, but Israeli politics are entering America

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