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The miraculous antiwar uprising of the Israeli establishment

An uprising within the Israeli establishment is preventing an insane war from being started. In how many other countries could such a thing happen? This is a proud moment for Israel’s democracy.

People don’t realize what a miracle is taking place in this country. A revolt by the Israeli military/intelligence establishment and Israel’s best reporters, helped along by President Shimon Peres and ultimately enabled by the Obama administration, is stopping an insane war from being launched by Israel’s two ideologically insane political leaders, a war they’ve been planning for years.

The eight-member inner cabinet, or “octet,” which in recent weeks has been reported to be split evenly between pro-war and anti-war ministers, has now tilted anti-war, write Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer today in Yedioth Aharonoth. Not coincidentally, this shift comes as the heads of all the military and intelligence branches continue to stand solid as a rock against Bibi and Barak’s plans. They haven’t budged from their position that an Israeli attack without America behind it – and America isn’t – would do little damage to Iran’s nuclear facilities in return for a lot of death and destruction in this country, and end up strengthening Iran while weakening Israel, especially its relationship with the U.S.

Meanwhile, a public opinion poll in Ma’ariv today finds that while a slight majority of Israeli Jews favor an attack and a large majority of Israeli Arabs oppose it, a clear majority of both sectors say the political leadership does not have the “legitimacy” to start a war if the military and intelligence leadership is against it. (Overall, 44% agree, 33% disagree). Another nail in the coffin of Operation Never Again.

Bibi is showing signs of panicking, such as his accusation last week that the generals and spooks counseling him against war were “covering their asses” in case there is a war, it goes wrong and a commission of inquiry comes afterward to assign blame. As Kadima chairman and former IDF chief Shaul Mofaz told Barnea and Shiffer: “A prime minister who [publicly]  accuses the IDF chief of playing CYA in preparation for the day after is a weak prime minister.” A desperate one, I’d say.

Another blast of bad news for Bibi/Barak is that Obama has opened up a substantial lead over Romney; he’s in front by 4% in the polls, and way ahead in most of the “battleground states.” At this point, Israel’s two ubermenschen have to assume that they’re going to have Obama to deal with for a second term when he has no re-election to worry about, and that an attack on Iran on the eve of the November election would look like a Hail Mary attempt to save it for Romney, whom Bibi is making no secret of supporting.

In short, Bibi and Barak’s ship continues to sink. Their war plans have been scuttled by forces that have proven much more determined than I ever expected them to be: the Obama administration; the Israeli security establishment, retired and, most importantly, active; many of Israel’s most respected mainstream journalists (especially Barnea and Shiffer, Haaretz’s Amos Harel and Amir Oren, and Channel 10’s Immanuel Rosen and Alon Ben-David), who’ve gotten out the story that IDF chief Benny Gantz, IDF Intelligence head Aviv Kochavi, Air Force commander Amir Eshel, Mossad director Tamir Pardo and Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen are against a war; and Peres, whom Haaretz’s Ari Shavit described as “the true leader of the opposition … [who] is working with all his power to foil the move being advanced by Netanyahu and Barak.”

In recent years, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to feel proud of Israel’s democracy, but I sure as hell do now as I watch this uprising against two men’s lunacy, and I see that the uprising is winning – as far as I’m concerned, it’s won. In how many other countries would you see such a backlash within the upper reaches of the establishment – the military and intelligence branches, the media, the presidency – against a war being sold as a war of national survival, a war to prevent national extinction, by the unchallenged leaders of the country, each of whom thinks he’s God?

In any country, it would be a miracle. It’s happening here, and what it shows is that Israel is still alive.

Related: Anonymous decision-maker advocating war with Iran is Ehud Barak 

Ari Shavit interview: A bootlicking masterclass


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    1. Larry, are you on uppers today? Did the MDMA shipment arrive? I hope you’re right…..

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      If this really is ‘operation never again’, then which side are you a cheerleader for?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard Witty

      I also hope you’re right.

      Reply to Comment
    4. K9, I’m being sarcastic – Operation Never Again is my send-up of Bibi’s demagoguery.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      @Larry, yeah, I know you were being sarcastic, but I was not. I have no idea where your absolute certainty comes from that this is in not in fact ‘operation never again’. You are, I am presuming, certain that it isn’t, right? Because, otherwise what you are doing in dismissing it as an option would have to be explained by less than benevolent motives.

      Reply to Comment
    6. K9, explain my motives any way you want.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Philos

      Larry, a putsch by the military establishment with the aide of a President that isn’t elected by the people, with both utilizing the pressure of a foreign superpower, against the elected government of Israel isn’t a triumph of democracy. If anything it goes to show how broken and defunct the entire Israeli governance system is; and, that’s leaving aside a discussion of the moral bankruptcy and imperial pretensions of contemporary Zionist ideology.
      No Larry, this is a sad day for Israeli democracy. I am anti-war, however, the fact that the only credible opposition is a figurehead political appointee, and MEN who head stringently hierarchical military organizations (that engage in colonialism, assassination, murder, and breaking domestic Israeli laws as well as rampant corruption and cronyism) is a very, very, sad moment for Israeli democracy. It’s about time we just started calling this place a Jewish and oligarchic state. There is no place for democracy in the current configuration of political forces.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Besides the beauty of non-cynical optimism. The thousands of Israelis who declare that they will not participate in the war and the rise of civilian service who will be the ones fighting the fires and treating the wounded, are marking a change in Israel.

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    9. Philos, the democratic thing about it is that B/B have not been able to control the flow of information and opinion, which would have allowed them to just steamroller their way to war in autocratic fashion. Because the army, intel, media and president got their views out, now the 25 ministers who have the legal power to declare war will make their decision on the basis of info and opinions other than what B/B want them to hear. This seems to me a triumph for democracy over autocracy.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Khaled

      I think the likes of Benny Morris and his ilk have been trying to set the ground work for an “Iranian Hitler” for years. The truth is if Iran were ever insane enough to Nuke Israel then Iran wouldn’t survive either from a counter strike. And the Iranians are not insane. They Do Know the consequences of a first strike on Israel with Nukes.
      So if this is nothing more than a smoke screen to avoid resolving the Palestinian Occupation then constantly threatening, and eventually attacking, Iran will not gain BIBI the 22% of the Holy Land but may well lose 100% of Israel. Morality aside, the more rational elements of Israeli society can see this is a fool’s errand with nothing to be gained and everything to lose.
      BIBI may well set Israel back 2000 Years if he starts a war with Iran. Now that would be Karma.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Sowhat

      Let’s hope the Iranians are as stupid as you.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Kolumn9

      @Larry, sure, I’ll explain your motives as being an inherently childish desire to present a position that is in contradiction with whoever is in power even if their logic makes perfect sense.

      I did have a question that you didn’t answer though. Are you 100% sure that the Iranians are rational and are you 100% sure that the Iranians will not use nuclear weapons were they to achieve them (whether due to irrationality or due to miscommunication resulting from a prolonged confrontation between Iran and Israel in the Middle East)? If not, how do you justify the argument for allowing Iran to achieve nuclear weapons and as a secondary question, are you planning to stay in Israel if Iran does get them?

      Reply to Comment
    13. John D

      SOWHAT: do you actually understand what you are saying? Your comment suggests that you think Khaled is stupid in believing that Iran would never launch a nuclear strike against Israel. Is that what you really believe? If it is, you must also believe that it is inevitable that Iran will one day launch a nuclear attack on Israel. What you are spelling out is the inevitable destruction of Israel. Is that what you really desire? Are you one of those Christian Zionists or something?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Oriol

      I hope you are right, Larry, but, like Philos, I don´t think it might be called a victory for Israeli democracy. Perhaps a victory of good judgment over insanity, even a victory of Israel elites against stupid demagoguery. But it is not a moment of pride for Israel´s democracy.
      By the way, I am worried than more than the half of Jewish Israelis actually would begin a war against Iran.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Yaron

      I am no cynic. The dividing line between war-no war not just divides politics, but the whole of Israel. The bottom line is that there is little security about what a nuclear Iran would do. Can Israel survive with a state in its neighborhood that already threatens Israel on a daily basis? How sure can we be that this is only ‘for internal use’, to entertain the Iran people and distract them from their daily misery? How far will this distraction go? As far as they went when they sought war with Iraq? And what will it mean for the Middle East political situation?

      B/B simply want to delete the uncertainty, not just because they want to comfort the part of the Israeli public that supports attacking, but also to protect the already unstable economic situation. Enough trouble on the table.

      Can we believe that the ayatollahs only want to destroy the ‘zionist regime’ and let the Jews live in Muslim Palestine once they would succeed? Does this mean that the nuclear option is only meant to destabilize (like it already does to a certain degree)? We do not know, so as long as this situation exists, there will be no reason to take away this uncertainty which means an attack stays on the table, also after B/B leave.

      One thing is for certain. Nuclear Iran has nothing to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Everyone is very aware of the fact that ‘brotherhood’ among the Muslim-Arab community is as thin as a hair. With or without Iranian bomb, both sides will stay on the same (cold) position.

      Both pro-ers and contra-ers like to draw black pictures of the future. Does an Israeli attack really mean war? It did not happen when Syria was attacked for the same reason, many years ago. Many years ago indeed, so not the same situation? On the other hand, does a nuclear Iran pose a real threat or is it a threat that we can live with, just as Westerners and Soviets lived in the cold war or South Korea does today.

      Both sides fail to convince me. I am against war, but not against an attack. If one says, this means war, aren’t they spreading fear? The true war monger here is still Iran, which refuses to give proof that its nuclear program is peaceful, while at the same time it utters the most aggressive threats against Israel.

      On the other hand, it is a fact that the world does not really care about Israel. Shutting down Iran’s nuclear attempt is much more Israel’s interest than anyone else’s. As there is no diplomatic contact, what other ways than a military one, what can B/B do else?

      Besides all this, Obama could do one thing to help: offer Israel the system that gives maximum protection against rockets the one that is also installed in Europe, an inheritance of the Bush administration. He may even ask Iraq to deploy such a system and meanwhile demand to open diplomatic relations between Iraq and Israel…

      Reply to Comment
    16. Piotr Berman

      “Can we believe that the ayatollahs only want to destroy the ‘zionist regime’ and let the Jews live in Muslim Palestine once they would succeed?”

      I think that this is a serious misreading of what the rulers of Iran are writing and saying. To understand what messianic people are doing and saying one has to create a certain template of their thinking, and because it is not OUR thinking, one has to use comparisons of different groups of messianic people. Luckily, there is no dearth of Jewish examples that can be used.

      Jewish messianic leaders are not supporting military action against Iran, however dim their view of Iranian leaders may be. As represented by Shas, they basically advocate to rely on Providence, to use a Christian term. Given the unfavorable prognosis of the military solution, this is actually a very rational approach. One key concept that I have read is that it is a sin to rely on a miracle to happen, however fervently you believe that EVENTUALLY a miracle will happen. From time to time heretics of messianic movements do exactly that: engage in reckless actions that rely on a miracle. In the long history of messianic movements, such figures usually cause disasters which are well remember by the sages of subsequent generations.

      From what I have read, Iranian leaders are quite similar in their thinking. They definitely believe that EVENTUALLY the illegitimate regime currently residing in al-Quds will vanish from the page of history, but it is rather clear from what their omissions that they doubt that NOW it can be done without a miracle on which it is foolish and sinful to rely.

      One can also observe that it is pretty hard to bring that end by means of nuclear weapons, so I would believe the official proclamation that Iran does not pursue nuclear weapons. The most reliable means are to make Iran (and hopefully some other countries too) into societies imbued with revolutionary and religious fervor so that Hidden Imam will deign to reveal himself — which is pretty much what Israeli mystical leaders advocate. Military effort is essencial only for two things: the survival of the religious/revolutionary project, and some mixture of hope, self-assurance and conflict. Some measure of conflict is necessary to preserve the revolutionary spirit, and uranium enrichment program seems an ideal vehicle for that.

      For example, what was the chief point of a recent speech of Ahmedinejad in which the fate of the regime in al-Quds was mentioned? That the observations of Ramadan should be exemplary. This is exactly the type of thing that Eli Yishai would say. In my opinion, those guys really mean it.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Mike

      Yes but did you see the news this morning, Sunday August 12th?
      The desperate King Bibi is trying to get unprecented and unrestrained powers to crush what’s left of democratic decision making and pull the whole nation into an insane war.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Needlebaum

      If Iran’s Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs are the new HITLERS and NAZIS…
      then why haven’t the 24,000 plus Persian Jews living in Iran been rounded up and KILLED?

      We’re told Iran is going to attack Israel because they hate “those whining no good money grabbing back stabbing self serving hook nosed slimy jews of Israel and America” then why have they not started killing Jews already living in Iran?
      As the new “Hitler” Iran seems awfully picky about which Jews they hate.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Prometheus

      Shelly Yachimovich, Mofaz and such definitely must not be allowed anywhere nearby important decision making.
      Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, should need for a stirke arise there must be no debate which could be disclosed to the public by an irresponsible populist.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Prometheus

      You question is rather silly. What possible benefit could Iran gain by killing 24k+ Jews?

      Reply to Comment
    21. Larry, Please explain why the Americans will not “unilaterally” attack Iran. War is almost always popular – in the short term – before or after an election. How will the strong sanctions against Iran be called off without Iran succumbing to the West’s demands or there being a US attack? I hopw you are right – though I am doubtful.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Madiba, I don’t think Israel’s going to attack and I don’t think U.S. will attack before elections – they’re on record too often saying it’s too early – but beginning next year, the U.S. could do it, which I think would be less crazy than Israeli doing it, but still crazy.

      Reply to Comment
    23. We know for sure we Israel are a parasites state and also to some extent a welfare states. If not for American tax payer we wouldn’t be as powerful as we are today but still we are ingratitude to Americans. We should be gratitude and shut up.We shouldn’t put pressure to Obama a guy who has proved to be excellent in supporting Israel right to exist. Shut up Bibi, Shut Up Barak , Shame on you.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Chris Condon

      A fine article. It may not make much difference, but my guess is that Barack Obama will be defeated by Mitt Romney in November. I believe that the analysts who tell us Obama is way ahead are way off base. But it serves the purposes of the peace lobby if people believe that Obama is going to win, even if he doesn’t.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Prometheus

      “We know for sure we Israel are a parasites state and also to some extent a welfare states.”
      What? lol
      “If not for American tax payer we wouldn’t be as powerful as we are today”

      Reply to Comment
    26. Rick John Denton

      The Israeli establishment bears the curse of Mossad, which on good evidence has been named as the guys that demolished the World Trade Center buildings.

      Yes, be shocked. But it happened. And perhaps now some within the Israeli establishment are sick of those outrageous criminal attacks to advance Israel’s interests, and are blocking Bibi’s insane war lust toward Iran. Good on them.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Prior Knowledge

      Mossad had prior knowledge of the 911 attacks, of that there can be zero doubt. If Mossad knew, either the Bush administration did but chose to do nothing (or chose impode the buildings for max effect) or Israel chose to withold the knowledge in the hopes that the attacks would lead the US to attack Israels enemies. Either way, those involved have committed horrendous crimes every bit as evil as those of the nazis.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Ali Saleh Shamkhani

      The antiwar movement is opposing war with Iran because they know we would kick your butt should you lift a fingernail against us. Iran is a legitimate nation with pride and an ancient history, while israel is a foreign splinter that will eventually be ejected from the Middle East.

      Reply to Comment
    29. ToivoS

      Well Larry I was heartened by your optimism this last Friday but after listening to all of the threats and bluster coming out of Israel over the weekend I am not so heartened. Are you still so cheerful?

      Reply to Comment
    30. Toivos, I don’t think this country is so uniquely, unprecedentedly crazy as to start a war opposed by all its security branches.

      Reply to Comment
    31. ToivoS

      Larry I do hope you are right. I happen to agree with you but I am seriously worried that something might go terribly wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Prometheus

      “Iran is a legitimate nation with pride and an ancient history, while israel is a foreign splinter that will eventually be ejected from the Middle East.”
      Lovely. Now Jews are denied their entire history – a bit older than that of Persians – alongside with the fact that Jews always lived in Israel for last 3000 years or so.
      Maybe Iran indeed should be bombed into Stone Age? It would be fun to seen proud Iranians assimilated by Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    33. @PROMETHEUS Your statement is almost true that Jews have always lived in Palestine for the last 3000 years. Almost, because except for a negligible splinter, the descendants of the original Jews mostly left the religion of Moses but stayed put in Palestine. Today we call those people Palestinians. The founders of Israel were in no doubt about this. The majority of people who today claim to be of Jewish descent are really not what they think they are. They are descendants of the Khazars, a Turkic people of Central Asia. The descendants of Abraham are in Palestine by right, the descendants of the Khazars are there with sometimes sincere but deluded claims about who they are.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Prometheus

      Could you please tell when exactly there were no Jews in Judea?
      (I prefer to use that older Roman toponym – Judea – over the newer one – Syria Palestina)

      Reply to Comment
    35. Blake

      Perhaps instead of asking where else could it be done you should be asking where else instigates war as much as “israel”

      Reply to Comment
    36. Blake

      @ Promotheus: Actually, Judea was but a division of Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    37. […] also wants to outmanoeuvre those in the Israeli establishment who are beginning to question the policy of never-ending war. In short, Bibi and Barak’s ship continues to sink. Their war plans have been scuttled by […]

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