MONTREAL — The head of an influential Israeli think-tank dismissed an ex-prime minister and two former national security chiefs public doubts about the wisdom of military intervention against Iran as being motivated largely by political ambitions and personal grudges.
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), based at Bar-Ilan University, said during a meeting May 3 with the media that an air strike on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities is the appropriate action. He said it should be carried out “in the medium term.”
“Nothing else is going to stop Iran. Diplomacy has not worked and economic sanctions are not likely to make much of a dent,” he said. There is no reason not to take President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements that he wants to destroy the Jewish state as his true intent, Inbar believes. “The threat has not been overstated.”
Inbar was asked about the recent comments of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, and former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin downplaying the Iranian threat.
“Everybody is smelling an election [in Israel]. Dagan has big political ambitions,” Inbar said. “He is bitter he has not been allowed to go further.”
Olmert, he continued, remains a “very frustrated” person since he was forced to resign as prime minister.
“They all have a grudge against the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu],” Inbar said.
Even in Israel’s heated political atmosphere, Inbar believes the three are “behaving irresponsibly… This is very unusual behaviour. Their voices are not serving Israel well.”
That said, Inbar acknowledged that Dagan and Diskin’s opinions cannot be rejected out of hand.
“It should be remembered that they do not dispute the severity of the threat or its eventuality. It’s the timing and political wisdom they are criticizing.”
Inbar rapped the international community for not taking the Iranian threat seriously enough, and the United States, in particular, for “not assuming its responsibility as a superpower.”
He would prefer to see the Americans contain Iran’s nuclear program, but as it seems they will not do so militarily, it is up to Israel to act.
“Israel once again feels alone,” he said.
While Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have been engaging to a certain degree in brinksmanship, Inbar believes that they are ready to order a strike on Iran at any time.
Such an intervention will be more complicated than other Israeli strikes in Iraq and Syria, but it is “doable.”
“Israel is very good at certain operations, a surgical strike is possible… and it has been prepared for some time.”
There could be repercussions for Israel, he added, but “when we weigh the cost effectiveness, it is the right choice to make.”
Inbar chastised the Obama administration for not recognizing that a nuclear Iran would be a danger to the whole Middle East, as well as the Indian subcontinent and eastern Europe. Iran has already financed terrorist activity in various parts of the world, he noted.
“They are working on extending the range and impact of weapons, and eventually Iran could be a threat to North America as well.”
While in Montreal, Inbar gave a public lecture at Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation, co-sponsored by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Canadian Friends of Bar-Ilan University.
He also spoke to Concordia University’s political science department.
BESA, which was founded by Thomas Hecht of Montreal, is an independent research institution specializing in security issues.