A sensational story is rocking Israel this week – alleging that the Israeli military defied orders from its commander in chief, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Leading Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan is reporting that Netanyahu ordered his military to prepare for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities nearly two years ago. Dayan’s story documents that both the army chief and the head of Mossad (Israeli intelligence) refused to comply with Netanyahu’s order.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Thursday, Dayan said the information came from officials who were in the room with Netanyahu when the conversations took place, during a meeting of Israeli ministers.
“It happened in the course of 2010 and all of a sudden, just when they are at the door, the chief of staff [of the Israel Defense Forces], then Gabi Ashkenazi, and the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, are given an order by the Prime Minister Netanyahu to step into a pre-attack alert and be ready to strike in Iran.”
Dayan told Amanpour that she believes this is the closest Israel has ever come to striking Iran, but the dramatic rift between the military and political establishments stopped it.
“You have on the one side Prime Minister Netanyahu with a deep conviction…. And on the other hand, you have the chief of staff and the head of Mossad who very courageously set off the alarms and say, ‘Guys, this is not the right thing to do now. And if we step into this pre-attack alert, this is noisy; this can lock us into war.’”
Also speaking with Amanpour on Thursday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, would neither confirm nor deny some parts of Dayan’s report.
While Ayalon implied there was not an order from Prime Minister Netanyahu, he did allude to disagreements between Netanyahu and the military.
“Israel is a democracy. And although we have very opinionated high brass…we’re very proud that they can very freely actually give their opinions,” Ayalon said. “But at the end of the day, it’s the commander in chief… to make the decisions. But the very fact that nothing happened means that the commander in chief in Israel did not give the order.”
Israel’s tone on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program appears to have very quickly changed since President Obama’s reelection on Tuesday.
The Deputy Foreign Minister gave what could only be described as a ringing endorsement of the Obama administration’s handling of Iran.
Ayalon told Amanpour that despite past differences with the Obama administration over Iran, “I think today we can safely say that we are very much on the same page and will continue to follow the lead of the U.S.”
But Israel has not always said it would follow Obama’s lead. Israeli journalist Dayan says Ayalon’s comments to Amanpour are in stark contrast to what Netanyahu had told her just days before Obama’s reelection.
“[Netanyahu] very, very strongly said if the United States doesn’t do it, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”
Dayan now believes Israel has postponed a deadline on Iran until the spring of 2013.
The Iranian Ambassador to the U.N., Mohammad Khazaee, responded to the report Dayan’s program in a letter to the Security Council, saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran expresses its strong protest and condemnation of such a provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible statement by the Israeli regime’s prime minister. I wish to reiterate that the Islamic Republic of Iran has never had any intention of any attack on any other nation.”