[JNV] Divisions in Israel over Iran strike / Maya Evans speaking tour / STWC demo

Justice Not Vengeance info at j-n-v.org
Wed, 2 May 2012 17:46:32 +0100

1) Divisions in Israel over Iran strike (3,000 word note)
2) Maya Evans Afghanistan speaking tour continues
3) Stop the War London demo
4) Conscious Oil exhibition available for hire

Dear friends

We hope you find these useful in your work.

Best wishes,

Maya Evans
Emily Johns
Milan Rai


1) Divisions in Israel over Iran strike

Gulf Crisis Weekly
2 May 2012

*A formatted version of this note - with 47 links - is available on
the JNV website*

Justice Not Vengeance

The end of April saw a flurry of stories about divisions within the
Israeli security establishment over the government=92s attempt to push
the idea of a unilateral strike on Iran=92s nuclear facilities. The
stories tended to confirm JNV=92s previous arguments that:

  Iran is seeking threshold status rather than a deployable nuclear weapon;

  the Israeli government is not serious about its threats to attack Iran;

  and the British mainstream media is doing a terrible job of reporting Ira=


The two big events at the end of April were highly-critical remarks,
in quick succession, from the head of the Israeli military, Lieutenant
General Benny Gantz, and from the former head of Israeli domestic
intelligence, Yuval Diskin. According to the New York Times, =91The
timing of the critiques of the policy on Iran was largely
coincidental: Mr Gantz spoke during the chief of staff=92s traditional
Independence Day round of interviews, and Mr Diskin, having promised
to stay silent for a year after his retirement, spoke as the
anniversary approached.=92

Coincidental? Diskin retired on 15 May 2011, so speaking out on 27
April was several weeks ahead of schedule (but only three days after
Gantz had undermined the case for war).

These interventions are only a part of a long-running campaign by
senior figures in the Israeli security establishment, desperately
trying to avert a fully-fledged war on Iran. (They all support covert
operations, however.)

Gantz speaks

The FT (25 April 2012) summed up Gantz=92s contribution: =91The head of
the Israeli military believes Iran will not build an atomic bomb,
arguing that the leadership in Tehran is =93composed of very rational

The armed forces chief-of-staff was speaking to one of Israel=92s
leading newspapers, Haaretz. In stark contrast to the apocalyptic
tones used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz said:
=91Despair not. We are a temperate state. The State of Israel is the
strongest in the region and will remain so. Decisions can and must be
made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria.=92
(Emphasis added.)

Gantz also questioned the Prime Minister=92s assertion that 2012 was the
year of decision (and therefore of military action): =91This is a
critical year, but not necessarily =93go, no-go=94.=92

Most tellingly, Gantz portrayed Iran=92s leadership, and its goals, in
quite a different light: Iran =91is going step by step to the place
where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb.
It hasn=92t yet decided whether to go the extra mile.=92 (Emphasis added.)

=91If the [Iranian] supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but
the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges
that he is invulnerable to a response. I believe he would be making an
enormous mistake, and I don=92t think he will want to go the extra mile.
I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.=92

Shannon Kile, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute, said Gantz=92s description of
Iranian leaders as rational was =91quite an interesting turnabout=92.
(Reuters, 25 April 2012)

It might be more accurate to say that seeing the Iranian leadership as
not simply rational but =91very rational=92 is a massive disruption to
Western propaganda about the Islamic Rebublic. Coming from Israel=92s
most senior military official, it is particularly striking.

The Japan Option

Gantz therefore falls in with the near-consensus of informed
observers, that Iran is seeking not a nuclear weapon, but the
capability to build a nuclear weapon. This is sometimes referred to as
the =91Japan option=92.

Japan is the world=92s largest holder of weapons-grade plutonium; its
stock may exceed the quantity in the US nuclear arsenal by 2020.
Currently it has around 30 tons of plutonium stockpiled. Most is on
loan to other countries; the 25% held on Japanese soil could be turned
into over 1,000 nuclear bombs. Japan has the technical expertise and
equipment quickly to weaponise its nuclear materials if it so chose.
Thus, to take the =91Japan option=92 is to be on the threshold of nuclear
weapon status, without crossing it. (For background, see Dr Frank
Barnaby and Shaun Burnie, Thinking the Unthinkable: Japanese nuclear
power and proliferation in East Asia, Oxford Research Group, 2005)

The RAND quasi-governmental research group in the US issued a report
on this topic in 2011 which concluded: =91Iran is likely in the near to
medium term to strive to stay within the bounds of international norms
and laws established by the NPT while continuing with uranium
enrichment and warhead experimentation.=92 The report =91Iran=92s Nuclear
Future=92, compiled for the US Air Force, cited a statement by Iranian
nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani that Iran was seeking a nuclear
capability like that of Japan, which has =91nuclear technology but does
not possess any nuclear weapons=92. (=93Iran=92s Nuclear Program Will Follo=
Japanese Model: Larijani,=94 Mehr News Agency, February 25, 2010, cited
on p14 of the RAND report.)

The most important and authoritative examples of this assessment are
the 2007 and 2011 US National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), the
consensus reports of the entire US intelligence community, which both
concluded that Iran halted any work on nuclear weaponization in 2003,
and there was no evidence of any decision or any moves to build a
nuclear weapon since that time. According to Seymour Hersh, the US
Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) tried to get the 2011 NIE to say
that Iran=92s earlier nuclear-weapons research was focused on Iraq, not
Israel, the US or Western Europe. The DIA believes that Iran feared
that Iraq had a nuclear weapons programme, and took steps towards
deterrence, calling it off once the 2003 war terminated that fear. The
arguments over this analysis, which would undermine any war fever,
apparently delayed the 2011 NIE for four months.

Getting back to the Japan option, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta
was unusually candid on the subject on US television in January: =91Are
they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that
they=92re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that=92s what
concerns us.=92

There is a slightly different attitude in parts of Europe: =91If you=92re
asking whether we would be satisfied with Iran becoming Japan, then
the answer is a qualified yes,=92 a senior European diplomat told the
New York Times (24 January 2012). =91But it would have to be verifiable,
and we are a long ways away from trusting the regime.=92

It is often asserted that being a =91threshold state=92 like Japan is
somehow in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This is not
so, as pointed out by Richard Dalton, former British ambassador to
Iran, and five other former European ambassadors to the Islamic
Republic: =91Most experts, even in Israel, view Iran as striving to
become a =93threshold country=94, technically able to produce a nuclear
weapon but abstaining from doing so for now. Again, nothing in
international law forbids this ambition.=92 (Guardian, 9 June 2011)

Other Gantz remarks

It may be worth noting that General Gantz made some other interesting
remarks during his =91traditional Independence Day round of interviews=92.
To Haaretz, he said: =91I agree that such a [nuclear] capability, in the
hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make
different calculations, is dangerous.=92

To Yediot Ahronot, the chief of staff said he had ordered his forces
to step up covert operations in enemy countries. =91You almost won=92t
find a point in time where something isn=92t happening somewhere in the
world,=92 he said. =91I am escalating all those special operations.=92 He
didn=92t name any countries, but Iran is an obvious candidate. (AP, 22
April 2012)


The Gantz controversy was followed rapidly by outspoken comments by
the former head of Shin Bet, Israel=92s equivalent of the FBI. There
have been different views expressed about how Yuval Diskin left
office. Ronen Bergman, Israeli author of The Secret War With Iran,
said that Diskin=92s words carried weight because he left the government
in good standing with Prime Minister Netanyahu and because he was
widely respected =91for being professional and honest and completely
disconnected from politics.=92 (NYT, 28 April 2012)

Apologists for Netanyahu have tried to smear Diskin, saying he was
bitter after being passed over for leadership of Mossad, the Israeli
equivalent of the CIA, and that he is positioning himself for entry
into party politics. Both of these slurs lack weight. As Associated
Press noted, =91In Israel, security figures carry clout well into
retirement. Although they frequently pursue political careers, Diskin
had been seen as relatively apolitical, perhaps lending his words even
greater weight.=92

Diskin told the Majdi Forum, a residents=92 group in the Israeli city of
Kfar Sava:

=91My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership,
which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a
regional war.... I don=92t believe in a leadership that makes decisions
based on messianic feelings.... Believe me, I have observed them from
up close.... They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to
lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off. These are not
people who I would want to have holding the wheel [driving the car] in
such an event.=92
(Haaretz, 28 April 2012)

AP reported Diskin as saying: =91They are not messiahs, these two.=92 (AP,
28 April 2012)

Diskin added: =91They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They
tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won=92t have a nuclear bomb.
This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack
would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.=92 (Haaretz, 28 April 2012)

Other Diskin remarks

Iran wasn=92t the only topic the former spy chief spoke out on. The New
York Times reported:

=91Many here saw Mr. Diskin=92s comments on the government=92s dealings wit=
the Palestinians, which was in his direct purview, as even more
significant than those on Iran. While Mr. Netanyahu has insisted that
the peace process is stalled because he does not have a willing
partner, Mr. Diskin declared: =93This government has no interest in
talking with the Palestinians, period. It certainly has no interest in
resolving anything with the Palestinians, period.=94=92 (NYT, 28 April
2012, emphasis added.)

Regarding relations between Israeli Jews and other groups, Diskin
said: =91Over the past 10-15 years, Israel has become more and more
racist. All of the studies point to this. This is racism toward Arabs
and toward foreigners, and we are also become a more belligerent
(Haaretz, 28 April 2012)


The repeated references to the =91messianic=92 nature of Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak are particularly interesting
given Netanyahu=92s own use of the concept in relation to Iran.

In 2009, Netanyahu described the Iranian leadership thus:

=91You don=92t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs.
When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the
weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying,
and that is what is happening in Iran.=92 (Atlantic, March 2009)

Diskin, saying that he had observed Barak and Netanyahu up close,
labelled them =91two messianics =96 the one from Akirov or the Assuta
project and the other from Gaza Street or Caesarea,=92 referring to
their places of residence.


A few British media outlets noticed that these were not isolated
outbursts, but part of a larger wave of criticisms by Israeli
intelligence and military figures.

Reporting the Diskin controversy, the BBC noted:

=91In March, the former head of Israel's foreign intelligence service,
Mossad, publicly opposed military action against Iran. Meir Dagan said
an Israeli attack would have =93devastating=94 consequences for the Jewish
state and would not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.=92
(BBC, 28 April 2012)

True, but not the whole story.

The Guardian (28 April 2012) was better, giving this last sentence to
its Diskin story: =91Diskin's comments also put him in agreement with
the former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, who has said that attacking
Iran was =93the stupidest thing I have ever heard=94 and that the Iranian
regime was rational.=92 (Emphasis added.)

AP noted Dagan=92s earlier opposition:

=91One of the first criticisms voiced by a security figure came last
summer from Israel's recently retired spy chief, Meir Dagan. He called
a strike against Iran's nuclear program "stupid." Dagan, who headed
the Mossad spy agency, said an effective attack on Iran would be
difficult because Iranian nuclear facilities are scattered and mobile,
and warned it could trigger war.=92 (AP, 28 April 2012)

None of these reports gives an accurate sense of what Dagan has been
doing. Well-informed commentator Amos Harel has remarked: =91Since the
end of his term as the head of the Mossad last January, Dagan seems to
be on a divine mission to stop the bombing=92 of Iran. (Haaretz, 28
April 2012)

It was in his very first public appearance since leaving Mossad, back
in May 2011, that Dagan described the possibility of an Israeli Air
Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as =91the stupidest thing I
have ever heard.=92

Dagan also said, in words that have not received as much attention,
that attacking Iran=92s legitimate nuclear power infrastructure, which
is under supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency, would
be =91patently illegal under international law=92. (Haaretz, 7 May 2011)

In March 2012, Dagan told US television: =91The regime in Iran is a very
rational regime=92, describing the Iranians as =91masters at negotiation=92=
Asked whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was rational,
Dagan said: =91The answer is yes. Not exactly our rational, but I think
that he is rational.=92 (=91The Spymaster Speaks=92, 60 Minutes, CBS, 11
March 2012)

Other figures

There are others in the Israeli security establishment who have spoken
publicly. In March, Dan Halutz, who led the Israeli military from 2005
to 2007, criticized Netanyahu for invoking Holocaust imagery in
describing the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. =91We are not kings
of the world,=92 Halutz said. =91We should remember who we are.=92 (AP, 28
April 2012)

The Washington Post noted: =91Although striking in its bluntness,
Gantz=92s assessment of Iran=92s nuclear intentions did not differ
dramatically from comments made publicly and privately by other
current and former Israeli officials in recent months.=92 The Post
quoted Amir Oren, a veteran military analyst for Haaretz: =91Many
Israelis get the impression that Netanyahu itches for a fight. The
military does not. The military must weigh the consequences.=92
(Washington Post, 25 April 2012)

The Financial Times found an Israeli official who spoke off the
record: =91The military and defence establishment has always been more
cautious on the issue of Iran. They are not minimising the Iranian
threat but they are approaching it in a less catastrophist tone than
the political leadership.=92
(FT, 25 April 2012)

In the UK, the newspaper of the British armed forces observed: =91Gen
Gantz=92s assessment of Iran's intentions is consistent with the view of
British and American officials. They also believe that Iran wants the
ability to build a nuclear weapon =96 in breach of its obligations under
the non-proliferation treaty =96 but has not yet decided whether to
exercise the option.=92 (Telegraph, 25 April 2012)


We=92ve argued previously that Israeli threats (actually, the threats
come only from Netanyahu and Barak) are bluffs, designed not to pave
the way for imminent air strikes, but as a means of exerting political
pressure on the US and other great powers, forcing them into greater
efforts against the Iranian government, through sanctions and covert
military operations.

In the reporting of the Gantz and Diskin interventions, traces of this
reality can be discerned.

Talking of the Netanyahu threats, Israeli analyst Yossi Melman said:
=91In a way, it is paying off: they achieved the awakening of the
international community and the involvement of the United States.=92 He
added: =91It=92s difficult to sense whether it=92s manipulation, or part of
it is psychological warfare. I think he really genuinely believes in
what he says.=92 (NYT, 30 April 2012)

David Horovitz, a veteran Israeli journalist, said many Israelis view
the strident tone as a =91successful effort to create the sense in the
international community that there needs to be more dramatic action in
a nonmilitary sense.=92 Given the success, =91I don=92t think what=92s
unfolding [in terms of international pressure on Iran] is deemed by
Netanyahu and Barak to justify, =93OK, we can tone down the process=94...
Quite the reverse.=92 (NYT, 30 April 2012)

An Israeli minister added weight to this analysis. Speaking publicly
in New York, Israeli Environment Minister Gilad Erdan criticized Yuval
Diskin=92s remarks cited above, saying:

=91The former heads of the security system should not harm the
government's efforts to destroy the Iranian threat. It is
inconceivable that as the Prime Minister succeeds in putting together
an international campaign to raise awareness about the Iranian threat
and increase sanctions against it, all these former officials come out
and hurt Israeli efforts to recruit the world against Iran by talking
about what Israel can or cannot do.=92 (Israel National News, 30 April

Note that Erdan points to the success in putting together an
international campaign isolating and escalating sanctions against
Iran, not in laying the basis for a military strike.

A clearer statement of this kind of position is set out in a wire
service news story:

=91Further complicating the picture is the widely held suspicion that
Israel=92s threats may actually amount to a bluff of historic proportion
which has if anything been effective in compelling the world to
boycott Iranian oil and isolate its central bank. From that
perspective, criticism such as Diskin=92s, based on a literal approach,
could be construed as simplistic and self-defeating.=92 (AP, 28 April


Note that it is generally believed that Israel is about to see
elections announced for later this year. =91The minute we have a date
set for elections, you have to assume that Bibi [Netanyahu] and Barak
are not going to risk their electoral chances by taking some dramatic
military initiative which could go wrong,=92 said Yossi Alpher, an
Israeli strategic analyst. (NYT, 30 April 2012) Just as the November
US elections rule out a US military strike on Iran this year.

Media coverage

How well did the British media report the Diskin and Gantz stories?
Pretty badly.

In the Guardian, on 28 April, Harriet Sherwood had a professional
report of the two latest interventions, and quoted Dagan in the last
sentence, as already noted. However, there is no sense of the three
men being part of a larger wave of concern in Israel security circles,
and no hint of the manipulation thesis.

A web search of the Independent=92s website shows a story on Gantz on 26
April 2012, and a one para note on Diskin on Sunday 29 April 2012. A
search brings no mention of Dagan in last 30 days. Again, no mention
of the manipulation thesis.

The Telegraph website also has no mention of Dagan in last 30 days,
and only mentions Diskin to rubbish him (Con Coughlin performing his
usual services to the Israeli government on 30 April 2012). Gantz,
however, is accorded a respectful report of his views, and due note is
made of the wider support for his views among the Israeli military.
(Telegraph, 25 April 2012)

A search on The Times website finds no mention of Gantz or Diskin in
the last 30 days. Dagan did scrape a mention within the last month. He
is mentioned in a 4 April article on the possible scale of Israeli
casualties in the event of what The Times describes as a =91three-week
missile war=92 with Iran. Dagan is quoted as warning that =91an Israeli
attack could trigger a regional war lasting far longer than three

Actually, Dagan has said: =91The Iranians have the capability to fire
rockets at Israel for a period of months, and Hizbollah could fire
tens of thousands of grad rockets and hundreds of long-range
missiles=92. (Haaretz, 7 May 2011, emphasis added)

The Times does not see fit to mention Dagan=92s description of a missile
war with Iran as =91the stupidest thing I have ever heard=92.


2) Maya Evans speaking tour

Maya returned from a peace delegation to Afghanistan in January and
continues her speaking tour this month.

Wed, 2 May - 8pm
'From Hastings to Kabul: Maya Evans' Afghanistan Speaking Tour'
Friends Meeting House, 4 Lechlade Road, Faringdon, Oxon SN7 8AQ
Organised by: Faringdon Peace Group, 01367 710 308

Thu, 3 May 2012 - 6pm
'Iran =96 can we afford another war?'
Birmingham City University.
Organised by: Organised by Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and
Birmingham University Friends Of Palestine Society, 07771 567 496 or
07954 585 952

Sat, 5 May 2012 - 2pm
Network for Peace AGM plus guest speaker Maya Evans
Friends House, Euston Road, London.
Wheelchair Accessibility: yes
Organised by: Network for Peace, mail@networkforpeace.org.uk

Wed, 9 May 2012 - 7pm
Friends House, Priory Crescent, Chichester
Wheelchair Accessibility: yes
Organised by: Amnesty and SEHPC
Contact: vida.henning@ntlworld.com


3) Stop the War demo

Don't Attack Iran, Troops Out of Afghanistan
No Intervention in the Middle East
Protest and Rally Saturday 19 May 1pm
US Embassy Grosvenor Square London W1



4) Conscious Oil exhibition

JNV's Conscious Oil art exhibition has just finished a run of
showings. If you'd like to show it in your area, please contact Emily
Johns on 01424 719 570.

Conscious Oil: Myth and Mind in the Age of Petroleum