The New York Times reports: An Israeli news channel reported Sunday night that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the Israeli military in 2010 to prepare for an imminent attack on the Iranian nuclear program, 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 for an hourlong documentary about Israel’s decision-making process regarding Iran, which is scheduled to be broadcast Monday night. Ms. Dayan said on the channel’s evening newscast on Sunday that Mr. Netanyahu, in a meeting with a small circle of top ministers, turned to Gabi Ashkenazi, the head of the Israeli Defense Forces at the time, and told him to “set the systems for P-plus,” a term meaning that an operation would start soon.
Mr. Ashkenazi and Meir Dagan, who was the head of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, at the time, would later say that this was an attempt at “stealing a war,” Ms. 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.
Both Mr. Ashkenazi, who is now retired, and Mr. Dagan, who stepped down after the meeting, have become vocal critics of plans for a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, and of Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak’s aggressive approach.
Ms. Dayan said in the preview report on Sunday that the issue deepened a divide in Israel’s top echelon.
Mr. 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 Mr. Barak told Ms. Dayan that “it is not true that creating a situation where the I.D.F. 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,” Mr. Barak said in the clip that was shown on Sunday. [Continue reading…]