Daily Israel Report

Dep. Defense Min. Hints at Israeli Strike on Iran

MK Danny Danon writes in Politico, refers to previous cases in which Israel struck nuclear sites against the US's will.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 1/19/2014, 8:58 PM

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon
Flash 90

The Deputy Defense Minister, MK Danny Danon (Likud-Beytenu), has penned an article in the US-based Politico website that appears to be a warning about an Israeli intention to strike Iran's nuclear weapon facilities.

The article refers to two previous cases in which Israel struck Islamic nuclear sites without US approval.

In 1981, writes Danon, “when Prime Minister Menachem Begin warned the Reagan administration that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was developing military nuclear capabilities, the Americans failed to act. Faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed enemy Israel was compelled to take matters into its own hands.”

While the bombing of the Osirak reactor was widely condemned, Danon notes that former Vice President Dick Cheney admitted years later that Israel’s actions “had averted a catastrophic situation in which Hussein would have been armed with nuclear weapons.”

In 2007, Danon continues, Syria was “caught red-handed” attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. Then-President George W. Bush wrote in his memoir that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called him to say: “I’m asking you to bomb the compound,” but Bush declined.

Danon cites the memoir, in which Bush wrote: “I told him [Olmert] I had decided on the diplomatic option backed by the threat of force. The Prime Minister was disappointed… On September 6, 2007 the facility was destroyed. Prime Minister Olmert hadn’t asked for a green light, and I hadn’t given one. He had done what he believed was necessary to protect Israel.”

“Disagreements among friends on serious policy matters are legitimate and even to be expected,” Danon adds. “At the same time, both sides must work hard to ensure that hurtful words and personal attacks do not become regular elements of our ongoing dialogue,” he explains, in a possible reference to recent acrimony around an attack by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on US Secretary of State John Kerry, which was leaked by an Israeli newspaper.

“Over the next few months, the negotiations with the Iranians and the Palestinians will reach the crucial stages when difficult decisions will need to be made by all those involved,” Danon explains. “It is safe to assume that areas of contention will arise between us and our American allies. I am confident that both sides will work hard to ensure that whatever differences we may have on specific policy questions, we will not let these distractions impede upon our unwavering alliance.”

Against the context of the prior allusions to the attacks on nuclear sites in Iraq and Syria, this appears to be a rather broad hint that Israel may, in the next few months, embark on a similar attack on Iran's nuclear sites. The choice of Politico as the venue for the article may be a way of ensuring that the message reaches all US lawmakers, who will not be able to say afterward that they had not been forewarned of Israel's intentions regarding the Iranian nuclear program.

The US and other world powers have been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, in an attempt to stop the program by diplomacy and avert war. Israel has strenuously opposed the concessions that the powers recently made in the negotiations, and warned that Iran was being deceitful and would not give up its nuclear weapons program unless it was forced to, either by military force or by crippling sanctions. 

US lawmakers are poised to pass a bill slapping new sanctions on Iran, but President Barack Obama is adamantly opposed to the initiative. Danon's article appears to be a message to the lawmakers, saying in effect: "If you don't slap more sanctions on Iran, Israel may have to strike on its own."