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Netanyahu lacks votes from 'inner cabinet' to bomb Iran

Israel’s top-selling newspaper reports that Netanyahu hasn’t convinced inner council to back war; his latest attempt to rig the game has only hurt him more. 

Yedioth Ahronoth is reporting some very good and surprising news on the Iran front: Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t have a majority in the inner council of his government for an attack. In the eight-minister “octet,” an unofficial body sometimes called the “security cabinet” or “inner cabinet,” it’s tied 4-4, with PM Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz in favor of war, and Interior Minister Eli Yishai and ministers-of-whatever Moshe “Bugi” Ya’alon, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin against.

And this is after last week’s terror attack in Burgas, which is assumed, even without Bibi’s salesmanship, to have been instigated by Iran.

The surprise here is the opposition of Ya’alon and, to a lesser degree, Yishai, both of whom are superhawks. What’s not surprising is the mention that IDF chief Benny Gantz and Mossad head Tamir Pardo also oppose an attack.

The positions of some of the inner cabinet ministers may be less clear-cut than the Yedioth story says, but it’s pretty much backed up in a commentary piece by the authoritative journalist Nahum Barnea, so even if the octet isn’t exactly hung 4-4, it’s still safe to say that Netanyahu does not have sufficient high-level backing to strike Iran for the time being. Netanyahu, Barak and their allies still have to sell the other powerful men in the government and get the tide rolling their way before the orders to start bombing can be given.

It may yet happen. I don’t know that any of these opponents are against an attack on Iran in principle. Some may be hoping for the sanctions to take effect, or for America to come in and do the job, or they may want to see how things shake out with Syria, or there may be other hesitations.

But it seems Netanyahu doesn’t have the power yet to go ahead with his plans, which is a big surprise to me. I thought Bibi and Barak had made the war an inevitability that was just sweeping the high councilors in its wake, but evidently that’s not so.

And Bibi’s ability to sell the doubters on a dangerous war, especially one under his leadership,  has just taken a bad beating. If anything, he’s in the process of losing support, not gaining it.

In this same story (unavailable online, only in print), Yedioth reported that the abortive move this week by a few Kadima Knesset members to jump ship and join the Likud was motivated by Netanyahu’s desire to shore up his war support. The leader of the mutiny, Tsachi Hanegbi, is a former Likudnik who followed Ariel Sharon to Kadima, and who wants to come home now that Kadima is falling apart. Hanegbi is 100% for hitting Iran, and Netanyahu wanted him in the inner cabinet to provide the 5-4 advantage, as well as to use his persuasive abilities as prospective “minister of homefront affairs” on wavering colleagues, the security-intelligence brass and the public.

Yedioth also reports that Netanyahu had the same basic reason for wanting Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz in the inner cabinet – to get his support for war, which would have been influential because he is a former IDF chief. Mofaz has wavered over the years on Iran, and Netanyahu thought that by bringing him into the goverment and seating him in the most inner of circles, he could bring him into the pro-war faction, but the opposite happened: Mofaz’s doubts about attacking Iran stiffened into opposition. Thus, Netanyahu sought out Hanegbi as a replacement, but that gambit blew up in the pair’s faces when it leaked out, making them look like pimps and the Likud-bound Kadima MKs like whores, so everyone immediately backed off the deal.

Out of all this bullshit, the one important result is that Netanyahu’s stature, his ability to inspire confidence in his political supporters, has taken another hit – and it seems he’s going to need more of that ability, not less, if he wants to make war on Iran.

Which means it’s a new ballgame. It may actually be possible to stop this thing.

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    1. Richard Witty

      Nothing is simple.

      There are too many parties at play, internally and internationally.

      One would hope that war-mongering in general diminishes as a means to shore up domestic political points. (In Iran, in Syria, in Israel, in Lebanon).

      Reply to Comment
    2. deedä

      you wrote: “… terror attack in Burgas, which is assumed, to have been instigated by Iran.”

      what we know by now:
      The attacker came from the Schengen area, looked fair skinned and blue eyed like a russian, was dressed like a russian, his splendid wig looked russian, he behaved rude like a russian and – he spoke russian…

      could you please elaborate how you know its iran? shouldnt you ask to put russia on the ban-list, according to your amazing logic?

      when there was a brawl between passengers and the attacker about the luggage, did they speak hebrew by any chance – the papers leave it open…

      maybe your russian foreign ministry should check their files about denied russian immigrants or that which were sent back, before blaming all world for this attack…?

      Reply to Comment
    3. XYZ

      I am well aware of what Israeli politicians are saying about Iran but I just don’t think that Netanyahu would carry out a unilateral attack on Iran, it’s just too risky. All wars in Israel’s history, with the exception of Lebanon in 1982 where brought on by the Labor Party and KADIMAH which had gone over to the Left. Netanyahu is well aware the Left would go ballistic and run to “world opinion” to condemn the action, particularly if it went sour and failed to eradicate the Iranian nuclear facilities and brought massive HIZBULLAH and even Iranian rocket attacks on Israel. I believe the threats the current gov’t are making are meant to get the US and Europe to tighten sanctions against Iran in which there has been some success. There are significant sectors of the political Right in Israel that oppose an attack on Iran. This is not a “Left-Right” political issue.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard SM

      Personally I think the Netanyahu drama over Iranian nukes has been acted out with the aims of solidifying US Congressional support for Israel, and getting Iran isolated and hamstrung by sanctions as the necessary pre-conditions for steam-rolling through something audacious with the Palestinians and/or the West Bank.
      Netanyahu holds executive power and executives make big changes by strategic and project planning. A project team designs a plan which helps identify the necessary actions, timescales and potential obstacles. Forward planning helps avoid the pitfalls. Look at some of the events:
      At the start of the year Netanyahu established the Levy Committee to assess the legality of settler outposts and the occupation -– the outcome of which we know — and around the same time he asked UNRWA for a detailed list of the remaining original Palestinian refugees who were personally displaced, as opposed to their descendants. In May, inexplicably, US Senator Mark Kirk sponsored a bill which requires the State Department to distinguish between Palestinians displaced in 1948 and their descendants. It scales the Right-to-return number from five million down to about 30,000. They could easily be absorbed and kill off the RtoR claim forever – and of course they’re all towards the end of their lives anyway.
      Other events: Anyone noticed foreign activists are being arrested and expelled at the moment? Palestinian media offices are also being raided and their equipment confiscated. West Bank photographers’ homes have been raided. And recently it emerged the Government of Israel is hassling OCHA, demanding to know what projects it is working on for the rest of this year and where all their staff are located.
      This all seems to be leading towards the annexation of something on the West Bank – possibly Area C. Absorbing around 150,000 Area C Palestinians plus another 30,000 RtoR refugees is do-able. The timing is perfect, Syria is in a mess, Egypt is still weak and in transition, Iran daren’t make a false move. It nicely coincides with the US presidential election so that when it goes to the UN Security Council, as it most certainly would, Obama, will have no choice but to veto or bear the political and electoral consequences.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Danny

      Israel will not attack Iran, not because it doesn’t want to (seeing Iran going up in flames is nearly every Israeli’s wet dream), but because of a much simpler reason – IT CAN’T! No ifs, ands or buts about it. Israel has absolutely no operational capability to completely destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities using a single surgical strike. Add to that the almost certainty of downed Israeli pilots being taken as hostages (think Ron Arad x 10), and we come to the simple conclusion that an attack on Iran is a virtual impossibility. Netanyahu and his AIPAC dogs hope to goad America into declaring war on Iran, but so far, Obama has resisted even entertaining the idea. Well, Shylock Adelson can always pour his billions into Romney for a promise of a war on Iran, but even that is a long-shot.

      Reply to Comment
    6. ginger

      How many bites at this apple is Netanyahu going to get?
      He and his Israeli Lobby would have pulled it off in 2007/2008 if the American Iran NIE and Admiral Fallon’s strategic refusal and resignation hadn’t stopped Bush from greenlighting it?
      Meanwhile Israel and Bibi are playing their messianic mad dog strategy to the hilt and basking in career-high amounts of extortion of ‘military aid’ from the US

      Reply to Comment