Israeli military blocked anti-Iran move by Netanyahu, says reporter Dayan
Chiefs thought PM, defence minister were trying to 'steal a war': report
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An Israeli news channel reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak asked the military in 2010 to prepare for an imminent attack on Iran's nuclear programme, but that their efforts were blocked by concerns over whether the military could do so and whether the men had the authority to give such an order.
The report, by the respected investigative journalist Ilana Dayan, came in the form of a promotional preview on Sunday night for an hour-long documentary about Israel's decision-making process regarding Iran, which was scheduled to be broadcast last night. Dayan said on the channel's evening news that Netanyahu, in a meeting with top ministers, told Gabi Ashkenazi, the head of the Israeli Defence Forces at the time, to "set the systems for P-plus", a term meaning an operation would start soon.
Ashkenazi and Meir Dagan, head of the intelligence service Mossad at the time, would later say that this was an attempt at "stealing a war", Dayan reported, because in their view such an order required a decision of the full cabinet, not the smaller group in the meeting, who were then known as the forum of seven.
Ashkenazi, now retired, and Dagan, who stepped down after the meeting, have become vocal critics of plans for a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran. Dayan said in the preview the issue deepened a divide in Israel's top echelon.
Ashkenazi was quoted saying of the P-plus order: "This is not something you do unless you are certain you want to execute at the end. This accordion will make music if you keep playing it." But Barak told Dayan "it is not true that creating a situation where the IDF and the country's operational systems are, for a few hours or for a few days, on alert to carry out certain operations means the state of Israel is compelled to act".
"Eventually, at the moment of truth, the answer that was given was that, in fact, the ability did not exist," Barak said in the clip shown on Sunday.
If the account is correct, the episode came at a critical time. That summer, a lengthy effort by the US and Israel to undermine Iran's ability to enrich uranium began to unravel. The effort, code-named Olympic Games and using cyberweapons, had two goals: to slow the Iranians and to give Israel an alternative to military action, which President Barack Obama feared could start another war. It was partly exposed when a cyberworm found its way out of Iran's Natanz enrichment plant, where it had shut down 1,000 centrifuges, and began to spread across the world.
In the US and Israel, officials met in secret to assess what to do, and Obama, who inherited Olympic Games from George W. Bush, decided to keep it going.
Dayan said censors stopped her saying when in 2010 Netanyahu and Barak gave their order. If late that year, it would suggest they felt the cyber project, once exposed, had little chance of further success and they were turning back to plans for air strikes.