NY Times: Israel was ‘far closer’ to attacking Iran than anyone realized

In an interview with the New York Times, Netanyahu insists that not the Americans, but opposition in his own cabinet stopped him from attacking Iran.

By World Israel News Staff 

Even as Israel and Iran currently confront each other on a number of different fronts, and after the U.S. pullout from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord under President Donald Trump, the New York Times has published “The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran.”

It details the debates within and between the U.S. and Israeli governments over whether to attack the Islamic Republic in order to thwart a potential Iranian nuclear threat, and in 2012 an Israeli attack “came far closer to happening than has previously been reported.”

Though dating back to the terms of President Geoge W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the historic review of secret consultations and military maneuvers centers around the already well-documented contentious relationship between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Though Obama was known to have desired a diplomatic agreement with Tehran on its nuclear program beforehand, “Netanyahu’s relentless pressure on Obama [for military action] may have had an unintended consequence,” The New York Times reports.

“The American president, with limited information about what the Israelis might do, increased his urgent pursuit of a major new initiative: a clandestine negotiation with Iran.”

The period which followed was a contradiction in terms: in certain ways, the U.S-Israel strategic relationship remained strong, some say unprecedented, despite the difficult ties between the political leaders, but on the other hand, the mutual suspicions over how each would respond to the challenge of the Islamic Republic led to spying against one another in a manner more conducive to adversaries than the best of allies.

“In the summer of 2012, American spy satellites detected clusters of Israeli aircraft making what seemed to be early preparations for an attack” on Iran, says The New York Times.

“One former senior Israeli security official, looking back at that time, said that it wasn’t until then that he believed the prime minister [Netanyahu] was serious about striking Iran,” says the article, written by Ronen Bergman, an Israeli security correspondent, and 

“Behind the scenes, Israel was indeed preparing for a strike. Its military and intelligence services had cut the time needed for the final preparations — for the attack and for the war that might ensue,” the correspondents write.

Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador in Washington at the time, told the newspaper: “I went to bed every night, if I went to bed at all, with the phone close to my ear. I was ready to be called in by Israel and sent to the White House or the State Department to tell them we had attacked, or if they already knew from their own sources, straight to CNN.”

The Times report says that the Israeli attack “came far closer to happening than has previously been reported.”

“Netanyahu insists that the threat of an Israeli strike ‘was not a bluff — it was real. And only because it was real were the Americans truly worried about it,'” says the report.

He pulled back from the brink only because he still could not get a majority of his cabinet to support him. “If I’d had a majority, I would have done it,” he says. “Unequivocally,” according to the article.

In 2015, the U.S. Obama administration and other world powers reached a nuclear deal with Iran to put off Tehran’s ability to attain a nuclear bomb in exchange for economic incentives to the Islamic Republic.

Now, with Trump as president, and Iran violating the nuclear deal after the U.S. withdrawal, the “present crisis has drawn the United States and Israel… even closer together,” writes The New York Times.

“And yet Trump’s last-minute decision to abort the attack in June led to a concern among Iran hawks in both Israel and the United States: that the president ultimately might not have the resolve to confront the threat with military force,” says the report.

“Once again, more than a decade after they first raised the subject with American officials, Israeli officials have been considering the possibility of a unilateral strike against Iran. Unlike with Bush and Obama, there is greater confidence that Trump wouldn’t stand in the way,” say correspondents Bergman and Mazzetti.