Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is convinced that Iran is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon. He believes that the Iranians cannot be deterred through diplomacy, and he views the Iranian threat as one that may bring about a second Jewish Holocaust.
His generals disagree.
In one of the most astounding public breaks by the Israeli national security establishment with a sitting prime minister, Netanyahu's own military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has stated that Iran's leadership is rational. Gantz is not alone.
In the past several months, as Netanyahu has ramped up his rhetoric on Iran, senior Israeli national security leaders from the military and intelligence communities have pushed back. In addition to Gantz, the current head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency Tamir Pardo has stated that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. And many more retired military and intelligence leaders echo the same sentiment.
Gantz and Pardo are not an aberration. They are the consensus. Their professional views mirror those of their counterparts in the United States -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. And their views reflect the position of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which assesses that Iran has not yet decided to build a bomb.
Their views also reflect the majority sentiment of the Israeli population, which views Iran as a threat -- as do these security leaders -- but does not support taking military action to deal with its nuclear program. Perhaps that's because the Israeli people, like their national security leaders, do not want to live in a world of hysteria when this serious moment merits cool heads.
In 2006, American generals similarly spoke out against a war in the Middle East that had gone terribly wrong. They spoke out because, as professional soldiers, they saw the costs -- strategic, financial, and human - of an ill-thought-out war conceived under false pretenses. They rebelled against then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's mismanagement of the war, bringing clarity to the confusion about why we invaded Iraq and helping us determine a more effective way forward. Our country is indebted to their courage.
Now it is the Israeli generals' turn. They have had enough of the fear-inducing rhetoric from their prime minister. They want a rational debate in Israel about how best to handle the challenge posed by Iran.
Their rebellious courage may have just helped to create that conversation.
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