In the Arena

Some Sanity From Israel

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Given the lingering hangover effects of Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrogant visit upon his American supporters–bitterness (toward Obama), smugness, delusion–the recent testimony of just-retired Mossad Chief Meir Dagan has provided a needed corrective. Like most recent Mossad chiefs, Dagan is a realist. He sees the big, long-term picture. And he excoriates both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on two critical topics: Iran and the Palestinian peace process.

In the past, Dagan had called an Israeli military strike on Iran “a stupid idea” and he elaborated on that this week:

This week Mr. Dagan, speaking at Tel Aviv University, said that attacking Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.” He added, “The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.” Mr. Dagan went on to complain that Israel had failed to put forward a peace initiative with the Palestinians and that it had foolishly ignored the Saudi peace initiative promising full diplomatic relations in exchange for a return to the 1967 border lines. He worried that Israel would soon be pushed into a corner.

Furthermore, Dagan revealed that other recently-resigned military leaders felt the same way:

In recent months, the military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and the director of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Yuval Diskin, have also stepped down. Mr. Dagan was quoted in several newspapers as saying that the three of them had served as a counterweight to Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak. “I decided to speak out because when I was in office, Diskin, Ashkenazi and I could block any dangerous adventure,” he was quoted as saying. “Now I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and Barak,” he added, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.

It seems to me that American neoconservatives–as well as fellow-traveling Democrats like Harry Reid and Steny Hoyer–have some explaining to do when they side with Netanyahu, not just against the combined heads of Israel’s internal and external spy services and the Israeli military, but also against their own President, Barack Obama. This also should put a lid on the disgraceful canard, retailed incessantly by the Commentary crowd, that those of us who disagree with Netanyahu are somehow anti-Israel. Indeed, I have far more faith in the judgment of Israel’s defense professionals than I do in the leader of a political party that caters the to whims of religious fanatics, illegal settlers and American evangelicals hoping for the Rapture. I have enough respect for Netanyahu to know that his positions are not just politically expedient; they are heartfelt. But they are terribly, perhaps disastrously, wrong.