In a dramatic statement that appeared to increase the possibility of war with the Jewish state’s most formidable foe, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated this week during a televised interview that he has the ability to “press the button” to conduct a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities if he feels compelled to do so. “I guarantee that as if I’m re-elected as prime minister I will not allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb,” Netanyahu pledged. Asked if he was truly capable of “pressing the button,” Netanyahu replied: “I am capable, if I have to. I hope that I won’t have to.”
The prime minister stressed that he was not “rushing to war,” and indicated that he would rather resolve the nuclear standoff through the implementation of severe international sanctions. “Iran is progressing, step by step,” he said. “Today we are not begging other people to help us. Today we are prepared ourselves.”
The first part of the news report on Israel’s Channel 2 outlined how Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak ordered the Israeli Defense Forces to raise its alert level in advance of a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010. That order was reportedly met with strenuous objections from both the IDF and leaders of Mossad.
During a meeting of several senior government ministers in 2010, Netanyahu allegedly ordered the IDF to raise its state of alert to “P-plus,” which is only deployed when an active war is imminent, according to the report. Netanyahu’s directive was denied by then-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who said they viewed the order as “illegal.”
During the second part of the TV news report, which aired on Monday, the interviewer asked the prime minister if he in fact requires the authorization of the IDF’s chief of staff to order a military strike on Iran. “The responsibility ultimately rests with the prime minister,” Netanyahu responded. Declaring his solidarity of opinion with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the prime minister added, “The defense minister and I see eye to eye on the Iranian threat.”
The Channel 2 report also focused on the uncommon public disagreement between two of Israel’s most prominent officials, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Barak. “I would very much prefer that this large a responsibility on these subjects (such as the Iranian nuclear program) will be in the hands of somebody else, not his,” Olmert said regarding Israel’s defense minister. “I want someone willing to slam the table and say ‘enough, this is what we’re willing to do, this is what we’re not.’”
Barak served as defense minister during Olmert’s term as prime minister from 2006 – 2009, during which the two leaders are said to have authorized targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, along with a daring Israeli Air Force attack on a nuclear reactor in Syria.
Barak responded to the former Israeli leader’s remarks by noting, “While Olmert is dealing with state business, for many reasons he requires supervision. And it is important that he will have people who will ensure that every action he takes will be thought through.”
The Channel 2 news segment additionally featured comments from high-ranking officials on the Jewish state’s relationship with the United States during the Olmert years. The report quoted former U.S. president George Bush as stating, “I’m with [Israel] the whole way, but I won’t back an Israeli strike [on Iran.]” U.S. National Security Adviser Steven Hadley spoke about the character of Israel’s involvement with Iran. “In a lot of ways our strengths are technical,” Hadley asserted. “The Israeli strength is in human intelligence.”