- Wikimedia Commons
Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president and prime minister who died Wednesday at 93, told The Jerusalem Post two years ago that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “was ready to launch an attack” on Iran, and “I stopped him.”
Peres, speaking with The Post’s Steve Linde and David Brinn in a meeting at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa on August 24, 2014, apparently said he didn’t want to go into details about his conversation with Netanyahu.
He also stipulated that The Post could not report on the exchange until after his death.
In 2011, Netanyahu and his defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak, were actively building their case to attack Iran by arguing that the Islamic Republic was developing a nuclear bomb.
“By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, [Iran] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Netanyahu said at a UN General Assembly meeting in 2012. “From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
The Israeli Defense Force and members of Israel’s defense establishment opposed Netanyahu’s plans to strike Iran first, however. So did Peres.
“It is now clear to us that we cannot go it alone,” Peres said in an interview with an Israeli news outlet in 2012, referring to Netanyahu’s desire to attack Iran.
“We can forestall it; therefore it’s clear to us that we have to work together with America. There are questions of coordination and timing, but because of the nature of the danger, we are not alone,” he added then.
A secret cable written by Israel’s intelligence leaked that year further conveyed the dissent brewing within Netanyahu’s own establishment. Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” the cable read.
- Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS
The Obama administration intervened shortly after Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli lieutenant general, visited Washington and relayed Netanyahu’s plans to attack Iran, which Ashkenazi opposed (with Peres’ agreement, according to The Post).
President Obama – who was in the beginning phases of negotiating his landmark nuclear deal with Iran at the time – sent the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. James Winnefeld, to Israel to pressure officials not to follow through with an attack. The move infuriated Netanyahu and contributed to the tense relationship that remains between the two leaders.
Netanyahu was ultimately overruled. And if what Peres said is true, he apparently had more to do with deterring an attack on Iran than either Israel’s defense establishment or the US.