Frmr Israeli Intel Head: Netanyahu’s Clash w/ Obama ‘Intolerable’, Risks end of US UN Veto

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Meir Dagan, the former head of Israeli intelligence, has long been on the outs with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Now he is actively campaigning for the Israeli electorate to dump him as prime minister in the upcoming elections. Soon after leaving office four years ago, he broke longstanding protocol to retail the story in public of how he and other security officials vetoed a hare-brained scheme by Netanyahu and former Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak to attack Iran.

I wrote in June of 2011:

“Netanyahu appears to have forced out Meir Dagan, the head of the Israeli spying agency Mossad, whose departure coincided with that of the chief of staff, the head of domestic intelligence, and other key security officials. Dagan, having become a civilian, promptly went public, lambasting Netanyahu for refusing to make peace with the Palestinians while it was still possible.

Dagan went on to accuse Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, of grossly exaggerating the threat from Iran, calling a strike on that country “stupid idea that offers no advantage.” He warned that it would provoke another rocket attack on Israel by Lebanon’s Hizbullah, and perhaps by Syria as well– i.e. it could lead to a regional conflagration.

The back story that has emerged in the Israeli press is that Barak, who is a notorious war-monger and adventurist, had gotten Netanyahu’s ear and pressed for a military strike on Iran. Dagan and all the other major security officials stood against this foolhardy plan, and managed to derail it. But Dagan is said to be concerned that virtually all the level heads have gone out of office together, and that Netanyahu and Barak may now be in a position to revive their crazy plan of attacking Iran. Moreover, they may want to attack in September, as a way of creating a crisis that will overshadow Palestinian plans to seek membership in the United Nations.

Dagan and other high Israeli security officials appear to believe that Iran has no present nuclear weapons program. That is what Military Intelligence Director, Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, has told the Israeli parliament. Kochavi thinks it unlikely that Iran would start up a military nuclear program.”

Dagan’s beef with Netanyahu is apparently not personal. The prime minister helped the former head of Mossad get a liver transplant. Dagan affirmed, “I have no personal issue with the prime minister, his wife, his spending and the way he conducts himself. I’m talking about the country he leads.”

Netanyahu clearly believes that he can openly side with the Republican Congress against President Barack Obama without facing any consequences at all. Dagan sees a danger that the next time the UN Security Council wants to condemn Israel for violating international law, Obama will decline to use his veto to stop sanctions.

Israel is in violation of large numbers of UN Security Council resolutions regarding its treatment of the stateless Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem, etc. etc. That Iraq was in violation of UNSC violations was given by the Bush administration as a grounds for invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein in 2003. Iran’s economy has been deeply harmed and its oil exports cut from 2.5 mn b/day to 1.5 mn b/day as a result of UNSC sanctions, along with those of the US. Israel, in contrast, as been held harmless from Security Council condemnation and sanctions by the US veto, which has been exercised every single time the UNSC tried to condemn or sanction Tel Aviv, regardless of the merits of the case.

I have argued that any US president, including Obama, could have long since resolved the Israel-Palestinian conflict by simply declining to exercise that veto, and allowing the Israelis to be pressured into making peace by the UNSC. I think the PLO would make peace tomorrow if it could get 1967 borders and an end to Israeli land grabs, and that the real obstacle to a settlement is Israeli expansionism, which the US veto de fact encourages.

Israel is also facing significant challenges from the UN in another way. Palestine has been granted non-member observer state status there by the General Assembly. It has signed the treaties and instruments necessary to joining the International Criminal Court and gaining standing to sue Israel over its creeping annexation of Palestinian territory beyond the generally recognized 1949 armistice lines. The Rome Statute of 2002 under which the International Criminal Court operates forbids colonization of other people’s territory, prohibiting

“The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory;”

If Palestine sues in the ICC, it seems to me certain that Israel would lose. The PLO seems increasingly to be moving in this direction.

So Dagan sees a world where Israeli military action like last summer’s attack on Gaza was almost universally condemned; where Palestine may successfully take Israel to the ICC (where the US has no veto), where boycotts of Israel could grow; and where an angry US president might start declining to veto all UNSC resolutions against Israel.

Dagan said in an interview, as reported by The Guardian,

“As someone who has served Israel in various security capacities for 45 years, including during the country’s most difficult hours, I feel that we are now at a critical point regarding our existence and our security.

“Our standing in the world is not brilliant right now. The question of Israel’s legitimacy is up for debate. We should not erode our relations with our most important friend. Certainly not in public, certainly not by becoming involved in its domestic politics. This is not proper behaviour for a prime minister…”

“An Israeli prime minister who clashes with the US administration has to ask himself what the risks are. On the matter of settlements, there is no difference between the two [US] parties. And even so, they provide us with a veto umbrella. In a situation of a confrontation, this umbrella is liable to vanish, and within a short time, Israel could find itself facing international sanctions.

“The risks of such a clash are intolerable. We are already today paying a high price. Some of them I know and cannot elaborate.

“I would not have confronted the United States and its president. Netanyahu may get applause in Congress, but all the power is in the White House. What will Netanyahu gain by addressing Congress? I just don’t understand it. Is his goal to get a standing ovation? This trip to Washington is doomed to failure.”

I think it is undeniable that by making Israel a partisan GOP issue, Netanyahu risks undermining the bipartisan consensus in favor of knee-jerk support of Tel Aviv’s vast land thefts from the Palestinians.

Whether Dagan is exaggerating the risks Netanyahu is taking or not, it is significant that many figures formerly in high positions in the Israeli security sector are openly coming out against Netanyahu, whom they clearly see as unhinged and flaky and a danger to the future of Israel.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Newsy World: ” Intel Leaks Suggest Rift Between Netanyahu And Mossad”

16 Responses

  1. On the next Security Council vote of any significance to Israel the UN delegate for the United States should be absent. A cold, a lengthy phone call, a sick parrot………just absent. No statement by an anonymous official. Just no US veto.

  2. Several points:

    (1) Meir Dagan has, in the past, opposed any military action taken against Iran’s nuclear program;

    (2) he served as Mossad director during the development of the Stuxnet computer virus – believed to be a joint U.S.-Israel intelligence operation – that targeted the enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran and was subject to intense debate about its ultimate effectiveness in thwarting Iran’s ability to produce weapons-grade uranium material;

    (3) Dagan believes that PM Netanyahu’s defiance and antagonism toward the Obama administration may endanger the “umbrella veto” power Israel benefits from U.S. presence on the United Nations Security Council;

    (4) there has long been sentiment within the Israeli intelligence leadership to enter final status negotiations with the Palestinians and achieve a just peace – “The Gatekeepers”, an Oscar-nominated documentary, interviewing the five living Shin Bet former directors, indicated that the peace process is being “murdered” for political motives.

    • I would expect that the Israeli intelligence establishment is intimately familiar with the operations and power of the Israel Lobby, given that it is its greatest achievement. Yet these spy guys seem to be unaware of the sheer depth of the Lobby’s hold over most of white America. Israel has lucked into the position of our single-combat warrior in our struggle against the rest of the world. (In ancient war, a champion from each army would battle before the main body.) We invest this foreign state with our own identity, as it confronts one large faction of the hordes of Others who are most of the human race. This is usually disguised in American rhetoric as a religious struggle. But we see this fight as the precursor to the battle of our “kind” to maintain white capitalist minority rule at home and abroad.

      Therefore, reason flies out the window. Israel seduced a crazy old widow with far too much power and now they’re doomed by each other.

  3. There really must come a time when public officials start to ask the question that is just begging to be asked: is Netanyahu’s mind actually coming unhinged?

    • If he really was ready to try a unilateral attack on Iran and was barely talked out of it by his intel guys, I am finally willing to consider the possibility that he is nuts, not just a cynical liar. It means he lives in a complete fantasy land about how Iran would respond. Either he launches a small strike that does nothing but enrage Iran and get it to double down, or he launches a strike so big that it causes large civilian casualties, which derails his attempt to derail Palestine’s bid for UN membership.

      Either way, the Syrian civil war and the growing cold war between the US and Russia since those days means that Putin will be far more willing to go to bat for Iran and vice versa. The US would be looking at a 1914 scenario where multiple alliance entanglements turn into a multi-front war. Israel is acting like Serbia and Austria, loose cannons expecting their big allies to bail them out.

      If Israels kills hundreds of Iranian civilians, it also means the Saudi coalition of right-wing Arabs against Iran becomes untenable overnight. At some point, Sunni fanaticism can’t possibly be compatible with being battlefield allies with Israel. The current Saudi-US-Israeli aggression against Iran works because the 3 partners provide each other plausible deniability in their aims.

  4. As long as a majority of US politicians submit to the dictates of the Israel lobby, Netanyahu or any other Israeli leader can get away with anything – up to and including murder.

  5. The real questions that Americans really should be asking are these (in my opinion):
    1- why is it that the first step any US presidential hopeful does is pledge allegiance to Israel? A foreign country breaking a host of international laws.
    2- what can’t we acknowledge that the U.S. – Israel relationship is just one way: financial and military and political benefits to Israel and costs ( moral, political, financial, etc. for the US).
    3- what exactly does the US get in exchange?
    4- Israel led the U.S. to the Iraqi disaster ( where I spent 4 years as a DoD contractor) and now it wants to lead it to the Iranian catastrophe. It is intolerable that this is happening and that politicians are being bought or intimidated into submission and support to the destructive foreign policies of Israel.
    5- Opposing and criticizing Israel in Public might we be a career ending move for the first few who do it until the larger public becomes aware, but it is certainly a sacrifice worth making. The founding fathers risked life, limb, and property to establish a a just and free country. Today, the U.S. is not just in its support of what itself recognize as the illegal occupation of Palestinian Territories and it is certainly not free from the undue influence of the Israeli lobby. It is impossible to imagine the head of any other foreign country doing what Netinyahu is doing and getting away with it.
    6- the most powerful country in the world is being abused like a Taliban wife by Israel through the treasonous behavior of AIPAC. This needs to stop.

  6. Another orchestrated distraction that keep’s the world’s eyes off Palestine for a few months. Netanyahu & Obama will eventually kiss and make-up – and we’ll be on to the next ruse.

  7. This is an abusive relationship, which only serves religious fanatics hoping to escape death.

    End it, divert their aid to Detroit and recognize Palestine.
    Only then can we begin to live down the last 35 years of American Imperialism.

  8. As always Robert Fisk nails it: “The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one: Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America – with the same confidence that he can support his army when they slaughter hundreds of children in Gaza” by Robert Fisk – link to

  9. Now I see that Israel is conducting massive military exercises on the West Bank. Bibi will do anything to ratchet up the tensions as he gets closer to the elections. Say what you want about Bibi, but he is a genius at the politics of keeping his job in Israel.

    • “keeping his job in Israel.”

      He was born in New York. He can run for US Presidency.

      An IDF soldier, was an adviser to Obama in the White House, Now presently he is Chicago’s mayor.

  10. Netanyahu has show what a trouble maker he can be. He is playing one party against the other, gives Boehner/GOP the opportunity to stick it to President Obama, and dictating terms to the US and other 5 nations that are desperately trying to negotiate an agreement. This is typical Netanyahu, arrogant, deaf to voices of reason from Israel and the US, and hell bent on being the usual drama queen. After his cartoon bomb comedy, one would think he would think twice before making such a spectacle of himself, and he is appearing to be more and more unhinged. At least if the Israeli voters are able to see through his drama and games, and vote him out, it would be all worth it.

  11. As always Robert Fisk nails it: “The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one: Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America – with the same confidence that he can support his army when they slaughter hundreds of children in Gaza” by Robert Fisk – link to

  12. Seriously, Folks: We all know Obama will fold and get us into some stupid Military Fiasco that will cost thousands of lives and Billions of Dollars.
    Support for Israel brings Money and Votes and people get to stay in Power with Money and Votes so people in Power will support Israel even if it starts using Napalm on the Kids of Gaza.
    After the AIPAC Circus and Netanyahu’s gig there will be a “Who Loves Israel More” Money Fight in Congress to make points for the upcoming elections in 2016 – Where secret money will rule.
    The real threat to America is the corruption of our elected Officials.

  13. … some stupid Military Fiasco that will cost thousands of lives and Billions of Dollars.

    Make that trillions of dollars.

    Support for Israel brings Money and Votes and people get to stay in Power…

    And one of these days their victory will very likely be Pyrrhic.

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