Ariel Sharon and the rise of Iran’s nuclear threat

By Moshe Dann, JPOST

On Dec 18, 2009, Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, writing in Haaretz, offered one of the most important insights into Israeli policy regarding the Iranian nuclear threat.

“When Netanyahu was finance minister in Ariel Sharon’s cabinet, he urged Sharon to focus on the struggle against Iran. When Netanyahu resigned over the disengagement plan, and Sharon left Likud and established Kadima, Netanyahu told Sharon that if he acted against Iran before the election, Netanyahu would support him. Sharon did not act.” (Neither did Netanyahu – MD).

“The uranium conversion plant in Isfahan has an important function in the chain of Iran’s nuclear program. It first went into operation in 2004… [and] since 2004, hundreds of kilograms… were sent to the enrichment plant in Natanz [stored in] underground tunnels.”

“It is possible that years ago, the problem of Iran’s nuclear project could have been solved by one tough blow and with relatively minimal risk. At the time, the project was dependent on one facility… Isfahan. If it had been bombed, Iran would have lost large quantities of raw material for uranium enrichment, and its nuclear program would have been set back years. But nothing happened.”

Why not? Benn and Harel did not answer this crucial question, nor did the media pick up their observation. Was the IAF incapable? Did Israel lack essential information? Was America, bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, reluctant to agree? Was Israel misled by faulty intelligence reports that the Iranians were not developing nuclear weapons? According to a senior military advisor, the IDF and IAF instituted operational plans to bomb the Iranian facility, but the political echelon opposed any action.

In hindsight, the decision not to bomb the Iranian facility was a gigantic mistake that changed the course of history.

There was, however, another reason for Sharon’s inattention: criminal charges against him and his sons and his preoccupation with unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and Northern Shomron.

The “Disengagement,” which took place in August 2005, took a year to prepare, mobilized massive resources and cost billions of shekels. Focused on expelling Jews from their homes and destroying 25 communities, Sharon ignored the primary and critical threat to Israel’s existence.

Three other people (at least) share responsibility for Israel’s blunder: defense minister Shaul Mofaz, vice prime minister Shimon Peres and Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, then commander of the IAF, designated in February, 2005 to replace Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon as IDF Chief of Staff (who opposed Sharon’s policy). Enthusiastic supporters of Sharon’s plans to evacuate Jews, they overlooked Iran in what seems to have been a pattern of confused decision-making.

Mossad directors Efriam Halevy and Meir Dagan played down the Iranian threat; Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland, head of National Security Council, was tasked with the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Virtually the entire military and political echelon was focused on destroying Jewish communities, not on Iran.

Similarly, in 2006, prime minister Ehud Olmert, in the midst of the war in Lebanon, announced his intention to evacuate more settlements. Seemingly irrelevant, it dramatically illustrates his obsession with further unilateral withdrawals from and destruction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Had the Israeli government prepared for war with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas instead of attacking tiny hilltop communities, the outcome of the Second Lebanon War would have been different. Instead, the Iranian threat was lost on Israel’s radar.

A year later (2007) Haaretz reported that foreign minister Tzipi Livni believed “Iranian nuclear arms pose little threat to Israel.” Once again, the focus was to destroy settlements, not Iran and its proxies.

The war in Lebanon was not a military defeat. It was a political defeat which allowed Hezbollah to control south Lebanon and dominate the government, while Hamas consolidated its rule in Gaza. Because Olmert’s primary agenda was political, not military, instead of defeating Hezbollah, he legitimized them. He failed to respond effectively to Hamas terror attacks until, in an effort to gain position in the coming election, he authorized the Cast Lead operation into Gaza.

When Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009 and appointed Uzi Arad to head the National Security Council, Israel’s Iran policy became a priority. By then, however, Iran had multiple nuclear centers, a well-developed program, and the new Obama administration was more concerned about Israeli plans to build apartments in east Jerusalem and stopping all settlement activity.

Although its Iranian policy is more realistic, however, the Israeli government seems again caught on the hook of the settlement issue.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s approval, is intent on carrying out his private political agenda to destroy settlements despite widespread opposition from government ministers and Knesset.

Instead of developing a coherent national policy his call for unilateral withdrawal, like those implemented by Sharon and planned by Olmert, distracts from more serious issues – e.g. a compromised judicial system, crime and corruption, social and economic inequality, monopolies and cartels, and the infiltration of hundreds of thousands of illegal Africans.

The failure to bomb Iran under Sharon and Olmert-led administrations, entangled in the “two-state” delusion and an obsession with Jews living in Yesha, fits a pattern.

Although Netanyahu and others have spoken eloquently about the Iranian threat, the international community is unwilling to act decisively and it is unlikely that Israel will act unilaterally. As Israel faces increasing demonization and threats to its legitimacy and its very existence, it also confronts a domestic crisis – and an ideological one as well.

The issue is the sovereignty of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. We dare not lose that focus.

February 5, 2015 | 12 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

12 Comments / 12 Comments

  1. CA I find your posts here mixed, some things I disagree with but the general theme I agree with which is What is to stop Israel striking against Iran now and you describe the near perfect conditions for doing so. Ken Timmerman argued that it was best option to encourage revolution inside of Iran but he leaves out that a strike against Iran would be a positive to overthrow the Mullahs..but remember the Mullahs took power because of betrayal by the Tudeh Stalinists (you may not recognise that)

    In essence we are back to Netanyahu and that kind of leader

    Sharon also did have an alternative and that was to destroy Fatah and Hamas
    Arrest all of the leaders. Expel them or execute them for crimes against Jews

    Now as you say and is very worthwhile once again Netanyahu has got options but….

  2. @ Ted Belman:

    “I believe that the US had a major role is forcing Sharon to effect the Disengagement Plan. A few years earlier Sharon, in response to pressure, said that Israel is not Czechoslovakia or words to that effect.”

    The Czechoslovakia remark was a few weeks after 9/11. Early October of 2001.

    “He never repeated it and shortly thereafter announced the Disengagement Plan.”

    Disengagement plan was announced two years later — at end of 2003.

    “What do you know about the US pressure leading up to it?”

    “If anyone else can shed light, please do so.”

    American pressure certainly played a part; however, it’s fair to say that in this instance, the US State Dept’s tamperings would’ve been unavailing had it not been for Israeli internal rot that not merely permitted, but virtually invited , it.

    Sharon, who had led Likud to victory [Feb 2003] over his electoral opponent, Labor’s Amram Mitzna (who had campaigned on a promise to evacuate the Jews from Gaza) — Sharon’s own platform incorporating a plank explicitly rejecting unilateral withdrawal

    — proceeded to reverse himself 180 degrees within 10 months of his victory , and embrace his defeated opponent’s position.

    From an old thread Post #22:

    “Sharon’s turnabout on Gaza seems to have been more directly the result of pressure from his ruling coalition’s leftish Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz — who favored the girush [‘disengagement’], and who was targeting Mr Sharon (and his son, Gil’ad) for investigation on charges of financial corruption, bribery & influence peddling [the ‘Greek Island Affair’]. On 14 June 04, Mazuz elected to close the case without criminal proceedings, for ‘lack of evidence.’

    Suddenly now — with, in fact, the most curious abruptness -— the PM was startlingly hell-bent on evacuating all Jews from Gaza (and northern Samaria), by gum & by golly, and by hook or by crook: indeed by any means necessary, and without a moment’s delay. A referendum of his own party revealed 65% rejection of the proposition. So, undaunted, Mr Sharon simply proceeded to dismiss enough opposed cabinet ministers & committee members to end up with a parliamentary majority of supporters.

    The overwhelmingly left-leaning, Israeli news media promptly went into overdrive cranking out pronouncements assuring all-&-sundry that there was now ‘massive’ popular support for giving the gentle revenants the bum’s rush — while Mr Sharon insisted that there was just ‘no time available’ for a popular plebiscite on such a matter of existential national import.

    Nor, incidentally, has there ever been a plebiscite to this day [2011] — six years hence — in regard to any other proposed withdrawals; though we’re constantly told that the Israeli populace ‘favors’ such further self-banishments.

    All of which just goes to show that there’s never time ‘available’ to do it right — but there’s always time available to do it over.

    It also goes to show that there’s corruption — and then there’s corruption. And that Arab culture (notorious though it be for the phenomenon) hardly has the market cornered in that department.

    Then, too, as Martin Sherman has argued, there is a PATTERN to be noted in Israeli politics, wherein such reversals as Sharon’s have resulted from

    — “a brutal, unrestrained assault on those elected to office, along with a coordinated common front embracing legal, media and academic related components, designed to subvert the will of the people as expressed at the polls. It was an assault that distorted the facts, suppressed the truth, silenced dissent and ridiculed dissenters

  3. @ Ted Belman: What I was getting at (Sharon’s betrayal of Israel) is elaborated on this article.

    Disengagement Plan Formulated to Escape Sharon Corruption Probe
    Two veteran journalists, based on talks with persons very close to the Prime Minister, say that the Disengagement Plan was hatched up simply to avoid Sharon’s indictment in the Greek Island scandal
    Journalists Raviv Drucker of Channel Ten TV and Ofer Shelach of Yediot Acharonot newspaper appeared on Nissim Mishal’s Channel Two television program last night and summarized the results of their research. The main findings:

    The evacuation plan was born because Sharon was sure that then-State Prosecutor Edna Arbel would indict him.
    The decisions on the disengagement plan were made by marginalizing the army people, and without the participation of the ministers and the Cabinet.
    Sharon proposed to one of the army’s top generals that he be a “plant” and report to him on the goings-on in the General Staff.

  4. @ Ted Belman:
    Sharon and sons were having serious issues with corruption and the heat from all the media was ferocious.

    Dov Weinglass his longtime personal lawyer and advisor, who was always making personal trips on his behalf to the White House insisted Sharon go along with this plan for “disengagement” to change the subject and take the heat off from the media.

    I do not believe the USA pressured Sharon do this but went along with Weisglass’s plan and came up with the Bush letter that would allow Israel to keep the settlement blocks, in order to assist Sharon in doing this treacherous deed of closing Gush Katif and the other Jewish towns in Gaza.

    Weisglass threatened Sharon with no longer aiding him and he had become a weak shell of his former self. Basically Sharon
    the father of the settlments abandoned them and the Israeli people to get out of his personal mess.

  5. @ CuriousAmerican:

    Israel has completely withdrawn from Gaza (other then supplying them with electricity and water – which they should stop doing). The only control exercised by Israel is necessitated by Hamas hostility, which is entirely in Hamas’s control so even those controls are derivative of Hamas’ belligerence which makes them responsible and in control.

  6. @ Ted Belman:

    I only supported disengagement on the principle that we control access. Condi Rice demanded that Hamas be allowed to run in the upcoming election and she forced the Rafah Agreement on Israel. Thus we no longer controlled the access. This lead to the subsequent wars.

    I still believed that we should not have abandoned every incyh.

    I was careful to point out the reluctance of your agreement.

    See my post.

    That being said. Israel should have annexed the Philadelphi corridor.

    While I agree that Israel should control access – by doing so, it cannot be called withdrawal, but rather, merely, as you more accurately said: disengagement.

    I do not like it when Israelis say they withdrew from Gaza. As you more accurately say: it was disengagement.

    You wording is more precise than most Israeli speakers.

  7. Further thought:

    What Boehner has done to Obama is truly amazing.

    1) Bill Clinton – 1998

    Impeached, but no one brought in a foreign leader.

    2) Nixon – 1974

    Impeached, but no one brought in a foreign leader.

    3) Andrew Johnson – 1868

    Impeached, but no one brought in a foreign leader.

    Boehner has invited in foreign leader (Netanyahu) to defy Obama.

    One has to go back to 1688 when the British Parliament brought in the Dutch William and Mary to see such a legislative power play.

    Israel is weak, only in its own mind.

    As always my solution is to pay individual Arabs to leave.

    The PA and Hamas will never agree, but individual Arabs will.

  8. If you really believe that Iran has to be taken out at all costs, then what is stopping Israel from doing it now?

    It could be done now.

    Egypt and the Saudis are against Iran. This was not so in 2004.

    Egypt tolerated smuggling to Gaza in 2004. Egypt shoots into Gaza today.

    Syria is bogged down. Syria was powerful in 2004.

    Hezbollah is bogged down. In 2004, it had only 1 enemy: Israel. Now it has a gazillion.

    The US Congress hates Obama. They are totally defying him. Obama is beneath a lame duck. He is close to being impeached. He is a non-entity.

    I cannot think of a similar situation in Western History in the last 400 years except when the British Parliament got so totally fed up with Charles II that they invited in William and Mary in a parliamentary coup d’etat.

    Israel is in better shape today that in 2004.

    What is stopping Israel?

    You cannot blame us Gentiles for Israel’s indecision. If giants in the land terrify Israel, then don’t blame us goyim.

    Boehner is now running the USA.


    As for the other screw ups in 2004

    From Arutz Sheva:

    Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 12:06 PM

    Op-Ed: Transfer: Is It Legal?

    I have long been discussing transfer of Arabs on the Internet, as I wanted the concept to be on the table for discussion at least. In addition, I argued that if transfer of Jews out of the territories is legal, it is legal to do the same to the Arabs.

    Again, regarding decisions in 2004, even then transfer was being entertained by you.

    Transfer may finally be the only answer – paid or forced. Transfer was the partial answer in 1948. [I do not believe that most of the Arabs left voluntarily. There I do cleanly break with the Zionist narrative.]

    Israel’s problem is its insistence on controlling the narrative.

    You can control the land or the narrative. You cannot control both.

  9. @ CuriousAmerican:
    In the article you linked to, I wrote:

    But I do care that Israel remains in control of air, sea and land access to Gaza and of security generally.

    As for the removal of 7,500 Jewish residents from their homes, I see no future for Jews living amongst the Arabs as citizens of their state. Sooner or later, they would have to go. I would have preferred that some of these settlements could have been annexed to Israel to establish the principal that not all land will be given back and to avoid uprooting so many Jewish families.

    I only supported disengagement on the principle that we control access. Condi Rice demanded that Hamas be allowed to run in the upcoming election and she forced the Rafah Agreement on Israel. Thus we no longer controlled the access. This lead to the subsequent wars.

    I still believed that we should not have abandoned every incyh.

  10. Ted, the article is myopic.

    The questions on Iran and Gaza were not so clear in 2004.

    Yes, from Israel’s point of view it was necessary to attack Iran.

    And I agree it should have been done.

    But in 2004, the USA was in Iraq, and so were Euro soldiers.

    In 2007, the Iranians siezed British soldiers

    The last thing that USA (and its Euro allies) wanted was a provocation for a general Islamic War against the West.

    An attack on Iran would have provoked a war of sorts. And the USA did not want to be in the midst of it. This was not a “Let hurt the Jews” ethic. This was a “We have enough trouble as it is Iraq. Let’s not make more trouble in Iran.” Ethic.

    Maybe Israel should have ignored that; but had Israel attacked, and Hezbollah and Iran opened up with war, be assured that the Western Press would have said blamed Israel for ratcheting up the flames of jihad worldwide.

    Maybe Israel should have only thought about its own concerns, but such an attack would be been seen as Israel being unreliable.

    There were legitimate reasons for not attacking – maybe not sufficiently legitimate – but legitimate reasons for Israel doing nothing. It was not all sinister machinations of Gentiles, and gullible Leftist Jews, to hurt Jewish sovereignty.

    2) May I politely remind you that you supported – albeit very reluctantly – the withdrawal from Gaza.

    Ted Belman – Op-Ed: In Support of Disengagement

    3) And what if Israel had remained in Gaza.

    Well, yes Hamas would be controlled. Always a good thing to control Hamas.

    But the demographics:

    Israel + Gaza + Judea + Samaria

    Jews – 6,119,000


    Is Arabs -1,688,800
    Gaza – 1,800,000
    J&S Arabs – 2,000,000 (roughly depending on whose figures used)

    Total Arabs: ~ 5.4 Million Arabs.

    Caroline Glick thinks Israel can absorb 2 million more Arabs from J&S.

    Crazy! But had Israel not left Gaza, the figure would the 3.8 Million from J&S plus Gaza.

    The Arabs may be slow, but they are not that stupid. They would have demanded a one-state solution. Their votes + Israeli left would have made Haneen Zoabi PM.

    Had Israel not given the Arabs – under those conditions – their one-state, the world would have had an easier time charging Israel with the A-word, inasmuch as Israel would have been charged with suppressing a possible, near majority Arab population. It was closer in 2004.

    In 2004, the demographics were closer than they are today, after a decade of continued Aliyah. Things did not look so good. I believe in 2004 it was heading to a 50/50 split, and some were saying Greater Israel was only 47% Jewish.

    This was a real concern then.

    The reason Glick and Bennett can seriously discuss annexation today is because Gaza is no longer in the equation. Had Israel remained in Gaza that equation would be much more murky.

    This is not to say that Israel should not have attacked Iran. It probably should have. This is not to say that Israel should have withdrawn from Gaza.

    It is to say that all these decision to avoid war with Iran and withdraw from Gaza were not the result of some worldwide secret plot to get rid of Jews.

    It was not a part of the:

    Bad decisions were made … but almost certainly made honestly.

    And you were not so clear yourself on one of those decisions.

    Ted Belman – Op-Ed: In Support of Disengagement

    It will make Israel stronger to get rid of the liability for Gaza.

    Hindsight is always 20/20, Ted.

    If one starts getting as conspiratorial as we Gentiles get, then all reason will be lost.

  11. I wrote to the author with this question:

    What is the genesis of the disengagement plan??

    For instance, Oslo has its genesis in the pressure that the US applied to Israel to get it to include the PLO in any process and to get Israel to allow them back into Israel.

    I believe that the US had a major role is forcing Sharon to effect the Disengagement Plan. A few years earlier Sharon, in response to pressure, said that Israel is not Czechoslovakia or words to that effect. He never repeated it and shortly thereafter announced the Disengagement Plan.

    What do you know about the US pressure leading up to it?

    If anyone else can shed light, please do so.

  12. I am an outsider being Trotskyist and irish but in my opinion it needs a new definition of Jewish traitor. My definition goes very wide. Israel needed some kind of internal war to have sorted this out. The rest is hypocrisy.