Binyamin Netanyahu´s aide launches stinging rebuke to Israeli president (GUARDIAN UK) Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem 08/18/12)
GUARDIAN UK Articles-Index-Top
Prime minister´s office says Shimon Peres should not speak out on
Iran as he is too prone to mistakes
The faultlines among Israel´s leaders over whether to take unilateral
military action against Iran´s nuclear capability have deepened, with
a prime ministerial aide launching a stinging public rebuke to
President Shimon Peres after he said that the country should not act
"Shimon Peres forgets what the role of the president of Israel is,"
an official from Binyamin Netanyahu´s office was quoted in the
Israeli media as saying.
The row – a stark example of the sharp disagreements at the heart of
Israel´s political, military and intelligence establishment over the
issue – came as Iran´s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Israel´s
existence was "an insult to all humanity".
In a speech to mark al-Quds Day on the last Friday of the Islamic
holy month of Ramadan, Ahmadinejad told a rally in Tehran that "the
Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumour" and warned
against "one cell of them [being] left in one inch of [Palestinian]
land in the future".
He added: "The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper
Zionists in the Palestinian land … A new Middle East will definitely
be formed. With the grace of God and help of the nations, in the new
Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists."
The Iranian president has traditionally used al-Quds Day, on which
rallies in support of the Palestinian people are held in many Muslim
countries, to deliver invective against Israel.
His words will inevitably be used to bolster arguments in favour of
military action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Speculation has
intensified recently that Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak
are considering launching action this autumn, before the US
In an interview on Israeli television, Peres said: "It is clear to us
we cannot do it on our own. We can only delay [Iran´s progress]. Thus
it´s clear to us that we need to go together with America. There are
questions of co-operation and timetables, but as severe as the danger
is, at least this time we´re not alone."
He said he was confident that the US would take action, but
added: "My estimate is that they will not do this before the
elections, which are more than 80 days away."
Following the remarks, Netanyahu´s office openly attacked the
president´s judgment, suggesting three previous occasions when it had
been wrong. The first, according to an aide quoted in the Israeli
media, was after the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, when
Peres "thought there would be a new Middle East". The second was
following Israel´s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 when "he
thought there would be peace … but in reality we got missiles".
The aide continued: "But Peres´s biggest mistake was in 1981 when he
opposed [Israel´s] bombing of the Iraqi reactor. Luckily, prime
minister Menachem Begin ignored him."
Peres later stood by his comments, saying: "I say what is in my heart
with a loud and clear voice."
The president´s views echoed those of many former and current
military, intelligence and political figures in Israel. US officials
have also made repeated efforts to dissuade Netanyahu and Barak from
Earlier this week, the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff,
Martin Dempsey, said that Israel did not have the capacity to
eliminate Iran´s nuclear programme. "I may not know about all of
their capabilities. But I think it´s a fair characterisation to say
that they could delay but not destroy Iran´s nuclear capabilities,"
he told reporters.
Some observers believe that the current frenzied speculation about a
possible Israeli strike this autumn is aimed at forcing an
unequivocal public statement in the coming weeks from President
Barack Obama on America´s willingness to take military action against
Iran, should diplomacy and sanctions fail.
According to an opinion poll by the Israel Democracy Institute and
Tel Aviv University, 60% of Israeli Jews are against a strike on Iran
without US co-operation. Eleven per cent strongly support unilateral
action by Israel. (guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY