Former Israeli president Shimon Peres, who died on Wednesday at the age of 93, told the Jerusalem Post two years ago that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “
was ready to launch an attack” on Iran, and “I stopped him.”
Peres, speaking to the Post’s Steve Linde and David Brinn in a meeting at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa on August 24, 2014, apparently said he didn’t want to go into details about the conversation he had had with Netanyahu.
He also stipulated that the Post could not report on the incident until after he was dead.
In 2011, Netanyahu and his defence minister at the time, Ehud Barak, were actively building their case to attack Iran by forcefully arguing that the Islamic Republic was developing a nuclear bomb.
“By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, [Iran] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Netanyahu said at a UN General Assembly meeting in 2012. “From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
The Israeli Defence Force and members of Israeli’s defence establishment opposed Netanyahu’s plans to strike Iran first, however. So did Peres.
“It is now clear to us that we cannot go it alone,” Peres said in an interview with an Israeli news outlet in 2012, referring to Netanyahu’s desire to attack Iran.
“We can forestall it; therefore it’s clear to us that we have to work together with America. There are questions of coordination and timing, but because of the nature of the danger, we are not alone,” he added then.
secret cable written by Israel’s intelligence leaked that year further conveyed the dissent brewing within Netanyahu’s own establishment. Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” the cable read.
The Obama administration intervened shortly after Israel’s lieutenant general, Gabi Ashkenazi visited, Washington and relayed Netanyahu’s plans to attack Iran, which Ashkenazi opposed (with Peres’ agreement, according to the Post).
Obama — who was in the beginning phases of negotiating his landmark nuclear deal with Iran at the time — sent the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. James Winnefeld, to Israel to pressure officials not to follow through with an attack. The move infuriated Netanyahu and contributed to the leaders’ still-tense relationship.
Netanyahu was ultimately overruled — but if what Peres said is true, he apparently had more to do with deterring an attack on Iran than either Israel’s defence establishment or the United States.
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