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Published on February 7th, 2011 | by Eli Clifton

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What Happened to Jeffrey Goldberg’s “Consensus”?

Incoming Israeli Defense Force commander, Major General Benny Gantz, might be a friend to the IDF’s “Iran-skeptics” and a potential thorn in the side of Netanyahu and Barak. Their attempts to portray Israeli leadership as sharing a unanimous opinion of Iran as an “existential threat” that could necessitate military action might not sit too well with the new commander.

Journalist Noam Sheizaf, writing on +972, asks, “Would the incoming Israeli Chief of Staff favor an attack on Iran?”

He writes:

Last spring, Gantz said that “there is no question regarding our moral right to act [againt Iran]“ [Heb]. Yet according to Ynet’s defense analyst Ron Ben-Yishay, much like the departing Gabi Ashkenazi, Gantz belongs to the “skeptics” camp, and would like to avoid IDF military action against the Iranian nuclear facilities. Unlike Ashkenazi, Gantz is not expected to oppose such an action if the political leadership decides to carry it out.

Sheizaf adds an update:

UPDATE: Haaretz’s Amir Oren also estimate that Benni Gantz opposes a military strike on Iran. “Gantz is part of the level-headed camp, led by Gabi Ashkenazi,” writes Oren [link in Hebrew]. Oren names other senior IDF generals that hold the same views, and concludes that the “pro-active” line on Iran, led by Netanyahu and Barack, is “disintegrating.”

While Netanyahu and Barack have attempted to portray the military and political leadership as sharing a deep fear of the Iranian nuclear program and a willingness to act militarily against Iranian nuclear facilities, cracks are  appearing in that supposedly united front. Information such as that passed along by Noam Sheizaf is useful in understanding what the “true” Israeli position is on Iran’s nuclear program. It also should call into question Jeffrey Goldberg’s reporting from last fall, which portrayed Israeli political and military leadership as willing to “go it alone” in a unilateral attack against Iran. Who exactly were Goldberg’s anonymous sources and how were they selected?

Goldberg wrote back in September:

I have asked a simple question: what is the percentage chance that Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear program in the near future? Not everyone would answer this question, but a consensus emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. But I tested the consensus by speaking to multiple sources both in and out of government, and of different political parties. Citing the extraordinary sensitivity of the subject, most spoke only reluctantly, and on condition of anonymity. They were not part of some public-relations campaign.)

Thanks to recent reporting, we now have reason to question whether IDF and Mossad leadership (see former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s comments on the Iranian nuclear program) have been convinced that an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is a feasible mission or a strategic calculation with a positive cost-benefit outcome.

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About the Author

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Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



One Response to What Happened to Jeffrey Goldberg’s “Consensus”?

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  1. avatar Jon Harrison says:

    Is it possible that the reports of skepticism on the part some key Israeli figures are part of a disinformation campaign designed to get Iran to let down its guard? I don’t think so, but is it possible?

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