Netanyahu: Unserious Leader

Netanyahu: Unserious Leader of a Fearful Nation
By Jeffrey Rudolph (July 2015, last update May 2018)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot be taken seriously when he talks about Iran. While Netanyahu is a master at exploiting fear in a particularly fearful society, the following points demonstrate that thinking people can ignore his claims dealing with Iran.

-That the existential crisis concerning Iran was largely manufactured by Netanyahu is revealed by the fact that “Iran, by the end of 2015, while not forgotten, was no longer the hot topic of debate in the Netanyahu-led government.” “[Netanyahu’s] political opponents who had hoped that the [July 2015] deal over the Iranian nuclear programme would mean the end of Netanyahu were sorely disappointed. He pragmatically admitted defeat on the deal, vowed to keep a careful eye on Iranian violation of it and moved on to the next issue.” (Neill Lochery, The Resistible Rise of Benjamin Netanyahu, Bloomsbury, New York: 2016, 333, 341.)

   However, as Netanyahu’s legal problems mounted in early 2018, as the “Israeli police recommended on Feb. 13 that [he] be indicted in two corruption cases,”  Netanyahu returned to his former hysterical rantings over Iran being a threat similar to Nazi Germany.

-“Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders blasted the [July 2015 nuclear] deal [between Iran and six world powers] even as negotiators in Vienna were still making the announcement and providing details.”

-In October 2015, it was reported that “Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission believes that the nuclear deal with Iran will prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear bomb….[T]he commission took this position despite it going against the wishes of the country’s political leaders….[T]he committee will be able to rely on the analysis and monitoring of the Iranian nuclear program which will be carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and that if the Iranians break the agreement it will be easily discovered.” “The commission not only oversees Israel’s nuclear facilities, but has also acted in an advisory capacity to Israel’s government in recent years, analyzing technical information to try to determine the length of time it would take for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon.” (22 October 2015)

-In an October 2017 interview General Yitzhak Ben Israel stated that he continues to support the Iran nuclear deal and that Iran’s “conventional threat (military as well as terrorism) is small given the power of Israel.”

   “As a major general, [Ben Israel] commanded the IDF unit in charge of military R&D and as the Director of Defense R&D in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, he oversaw the creation of Israel’s cutting edge anti-missile systems. As a civilian, he became the architect of Israel’s unique cyberdefense ecosystem.”

   Ben Israel is not alone in supporting the nuclear deal. “The Israeli army’s top echelon also wants to keep the deal. So do a host of other former Mossad and SHABAK chiefs who during their career have sat through thousands of hours of briefings on Israel’s security, including issues relating to Iran. Even former Defense Minister Ehud Barak who was in favor of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities now believes [it should be kept].”

   “Trump and Netanyahu are acting out of political considerations. If their assessments that by nixing the Iran deal the security of Israel would be enhanced, the upper echelons of the Israeli Defense Forces would support their [conclusion]. It does not. And if Trump thinks that by cancelling the sale of Boeing passenger aircraft to Iran he will be ‘fixing the deal’, he is very mistaken. He will be breaking it, and with that, he’ll be jeopardizing the security of the state of Israel.”  (21 Oct. 2017)

-In October 2017, Uzi Arad, “who served as national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during 2009-2011” urged “Washington to build on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal rather than abandon or undermine it.” Arad, who is also “a two-decade veteran of Mossad, said that the 2015 nuclear accord had clear tangible benefits for Israeli and international security and that Iran, to date, had honored its strict terms. ‘Iran has indeed done away with those things that it committed itself to do away with… It reduced inventories, it removed some of the centrifuges, it blocked the plutonium route. It undertook all kinds of restraints, quantitative and qualitative restraints, on its nuclear program. In doing so, it stopped the progression. It stopped the advance toward nuclear weapons. That is tangible, and that is good.’”

-In January 2016, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, “[I]srael’s military chief of staff told a prestigious defense conference that far from being a mortal threat, the [Iran nuclear] deal has actually removed the most serious danger to Israel’s existence for the foreseeable future….There have been numerous indications in the past that Israel’s defense and intelligence branches don’t share Netanyahu’s dire view of the Iran deal. However, Eisenkot’s speech appears to be the first time the army’s contrary assessment has been presented formally in a public forum.”  (26 Jan. 2016)

-In early August 2015, “Many Israeli ex-generals and former security chiefs have signed a petition urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran…[The] petition…calls the July 14 accord a ‘fait accompli.’ It urges the government to pursue a policy that would ‘restore trust and reinforce security and diplomatic cooperation with the American administration.’…The signatories include two former heads of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon; a former deputy director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Amiram Levin; the ex-chief of the Atomic Energy Commission Uzi Eilmann; and dozens of former generals and senior officers.”,7340,L-4687145,00.html (3 August 2015)

-“As unanimous as [Israeli] politicians are in backing [Netanyahu on the July 2015 Iran deal], the generals and spymasters are nearly as unanimous in questioning him. Generals publicly backing Netanyahu can be counted on…one finger.” Israeli security professionals – the experts “whose job it is to identify and address threats to Israel’s safety” – who disagree with Netanyahu “include a former chief of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, who now heads Israel’s main defense think tank; a former chief of arms technology, Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, who now chairs both The Israel Space Agency and the science ministry’s research and development council; a former chief of military operations, Israel Ziv; a near-legendary architect of Israeli military intelligence, Dov Tamari; a former director of the Shin Bet domestic security service, Ami Ayalon; and a former director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Efraim Halevy….[In addition,] Ben-Yisrael, who has twice won the Israel Prize for contributions to Israel’s weapons technology, [publicly stated] that the Vienna agreement is ‘not bad at all, perhaps even good for Israel.’…‘[The deal] prevents a nuclear bomb for 15 years, which is not bad at all.’” (23 July 2015)

-“[M]any former senior intelligence and national security officials in Israel disagree [with Netanyahu’s assessment of the July 2015 nuclear deal]. While they think the deal is flawed and that Netanyahu deserves credit for raising the alarm on Iran years ago, they also believe that the historic agreement is—on balance—in the national security interest of the State of Israel.” Ami Ayalon, “a former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, and a former chief of the Israeli Navy” can list numerous “former defense ministers and chiefs of Shin Bet and Mossad who agree with him that ‘when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option.’ ‘When negotiations began, Iran was two months away from acquiring enough material for a [nuclear] bomb. Now it will be 12 months,’ Ayalon says, and the difference is significant to anyone with a background in intelligence. ‘Israelis are failing to distinguish between reducing Iran’s nuclear capability and Iran being the biggest devil in the Middle East,’ he says.”

-When Netanyahu was asked on television whether he would lobby the US Congress over the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, he replied: “I feel it’s my obligation as the prime minister of Israel to speak out against something that endangers the survival of my country, the security of the region, the security of the world.” (To learn when Israel “discovered” Iran as an existential threat, see question 3 of the Iran Quiz at: (19 July 2015)

   “[M]any American Jewish communal organizations—urged on by Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel—desperately tr[ied] to mobilize the masses of American Jews to oppose the [July 2015 Iran] nuclear accord, although initial polling showed that most [American] Jews actually supported it.” (Dov Waxman, Trouble In The Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel, Princeton University Press, Princeton: 2016, 16.)

-“On the eve of the nuclear ­accord, Netanyahu warned on his Twitter account that Iran ‘is more dangerous than ISIS,’ a reference to the radical Islamic State group that has captured vast swaths of Syria and Iraq. He argued that ‘the true goal of [Iran’s] aggression…is to take over the world.’”

-In January 2015, “the Mossad’s director, Tamir Pardo, told a group of [US] senators that imposing new sanctions on Iran, something Netanyahu favored, would undermine the nuclear talks.” (23 July 2015)

-“Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration [at the United Nations] in 2012 that Iran was about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, [Mossad, which]…concluded that Iran was ‘not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons’.”

-On 30 April 2018, “during his live presentation, Netanyahu presented a slide with potentially explosive information: stating that Iran is currently carrying out its clandestine military nuclear program in 2018, as part of the SPND project.” (SPND is the organization that carried out Iran’s nuclear weapons research.)

   “That information was presented as part of a slide entitled ‘Today this work [nuclear military program] is carried out by SPND’. This was huge. By stating this, Netanyahu was basically stating that Iran is cheating the P5+1 and the Iran nuclear deal.”

   “But it took one day for the Netanyahu administration to go back on this key assessment. The next day, as noted by I24 news senior defense correspondent Shai Ben Ari, in the copy of the slides sent to journalists, the slide entitled ‘Today this work is carried out by SPND’ is altered. It now simply said ‘SPND’. In other words, Netanyahu is no longer claiming that Iran is currently carrying out a clandestine military nuclear program.”

   “This could explain why the Trump administration also had to correct its ‘clerical error’ by changing its statement from Iran ‘has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program’ to ‘had’.”  (2 May 2018)

   “Even if the documents assembled by Israel are genuine, they do not appear to reveal that prohibited nuclear weapons research and design activities continued in an organized fashion beyond 2003. Furthermore, contrary to Netanyahu’s assertion that Iran must ‘come clean’ about its nuclear past, there is no such requirement for it to do so. Instead, it is essential to ensure that Iran is no longer engaged in nuclear weapons research and design activities, that there is robust monitoring of Iran’s ongoing nuclear activities, and that Iran’s nuclear program is constrained in ways that prevent it from being able to quickly amass enough weapon-grade material for even one nuclear bomb.” (“‘The fact that Iran conducted sensitive research in secret until 2003 shows why we need the intrusive inspections allowed by the Iran nuclear deal today,’ British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in response to Netanyahu’s allegations. It is also why it is essential to keep the JCPOA restriction in place to ensure that Iran cannot amass enough fissile material necessary to build a nuclear weapon.”)

-In 2010, Netanyahu wanted the Israeli military to prepare “for an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations…[Accordingly, he] convened the Security Cabinet, which then asked [former Mossad director Meir] Dagan, [former military chief of staff Gabi] Ashkenazi and several others for their views on military action. The generals argued against it. The cabinet duly voted the action down, infuriating Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak. Within a year Ashkenazi, Dagan and their ally, Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin, were all out of a job.” “Netanyahu has replaced top [security] personnel repeatedly, but each new cohort takes the same stance: opposing precipitate action [against Iran]; denying that Iran represents an existential threat; insisting that Iran’s leadership is rational and responds to negotiation and deterrence.”  (12 June 2015) (23 July 2015)

   In 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again “wanted to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities…but was prevented from doing so…by ministerial colleagues, Netanyahu’s former defense minister Ehud Barak said [in recordings that were broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 on 21 August 2015].”  (21 August 2015)

-Likudniks point to Israel’s 1981 attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor as a successful example of what the Israeli Air Force can achieve. (Then-Prime Minister Begin disdained diplomacy as a route to deal with Iraq’s nuclear program.) However, it was after the 1981 attack that “Saddam cranked up Iraq’s nuclear production several times over, putting thousands of new technicians to work on the project. This was only discovered when the Americans questioned the Iraqi nuclear scientists they captured during the 1991 Gulf War. It was that war, and the subsequent takeover of Saddam’s WMD, that prevented Iraq from getting the bomb – not the 1981 Israeli attack on Osirak.” There is no reason to assume Iran would not redouble its nuclear program after an Israeli attack. (2 March 2012)

-According to Dr. Thomas Shea, who worked in the International Atomic Energy Agency Department of Safeguards for 24 years, the IAEA “has been preparing for its Iran verification role since it first opened for business in 1957, and it will be up to the task” of monitoring the July 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

   It’s worth remembering that “On March 7, [2003,] the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNMOVIC) reported to the UN Security Council on the latest results of their inspections in Iraq, monitoring enforcement of the Council’s demand that Saddam Hussein eliminate his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related programs. The IAEA’s Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, and UNMOVIC’s Executive Chairman, Hans Blix, both reported progress, following the return of UN inspectors to Iraq in November 2002, in resolving critical questions about the current status of Iraq’s WMD programs. Based on more than a hundred visits to suspect sites and private interviews with a number of individual scientists known to have been involved with WMD programs in the past, ElBaradei stated that the IAEA had ‘to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq’ and predicted that the agency should be able to provide that Security Council with an objective and thorough assessment of Iraq’s nuclear related capabilities ‘in the near future.’” Unfortunately, the Bush administration disdained these experts (who, we now know, were correct); breached international law; and invaded Iraq on March 19 on the pretext that Saddam had WMD.

 -In mid-August 2015, “Dozens of arms control and nuclear nonproliferation experts have signed a statement endorsing the Iran nuclear deal…The Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan group based in Washington,…declares the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief ‘a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.’ Among the 75 signatories are…Hans Blix, a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Morton Halperin, a foreign policy veteran of three administrations; and Thomas Pickering, a retired diplomat and former US ambassador to Israel. Several former United Nations disarmament officials, along with leaders of think tanks and foundations dedicated to preventing the spread of nuclear arms, also added their names.”

   “Amid a political uproar in Washington, the deal has mostly been celebrated by technical experts. [In early August], 29 prominent scientists wrote to Obama saying the deal has ‘more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework.’”

   “The Arms Control Association statement argues that the deal’s monitoring and verification provisions ‘make it very likely that any future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly, providing the opportunity to intervene decisively to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.’ The statement does not directly address a larger concern of opponents — that once the deal’s core provisions sunset after 15 years, Tehran will be poised to install advanced centrifuges and build a weapon in a matter of weeks.”


Jeffrey Rudolph, a Montreal college professor, was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and, has taught at McGill University. He has prepared widely-distributed quizzes on Israel-Palestine, Iran, Hamas, Terrorism, Saudi Arabia, US Inequality, the US Christian Right, Hezbollah, the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, Qatar, and China. These quizzes are available at,


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