Israel has protested to the United States over recent comments by senior American officials critical of any Israeli attack on Iran, saying this criticism “served Iran’s interests.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior officials made their displeasure known to Tom Donilon, U.S. national security adviser who has been in Israel this week.
A senior Israeli official said Netanyahu and Barak told Donilon of their dissatisfaction with the interview given by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, to CNN on Sunday.
Dempsey said “I don’t think a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a military attack on Iran,” and a strike “would be destabilizing” and “not prudent.”
Dempsey said the United States has so far not been able to persuade Israel not to attack Iran. “I wouldn’t suggest that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view,” he said.
The Israeli officials also objected to a number of briefings senior American officials gave American correspondents, who wrote in recent weeks about a possible Israeli attack in Iran.
The story that angered Netanyahu most was an NBC broadcast two weeks ago saying Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities with Jericho missiles, commando forces and F-151 jets.
“We made it clear to Donilon that all those statements and briefings only served the Iranians,” a senior Israeli official said. “The Iranians see there’s controversy between the United States and Israel, and that the Americans object to a military act. That reduces the pressure on them.”
Donilon also met a team of Israeli experts from the ministries and intelligence agencies, headed by National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, who coordinates the Iranian portfolio. He also met Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Military Intelligence head Aviv Kochavi.
All the officials told Donilon that the pressure and sanctions on Iran must be increased, especially to avoid having to use military force.
“We made it clear that if we don’t increase the pressure on the Iranians now, we might be in a situation in which the question how Iran obtained nuclear weapons would become an issue for commentators and historians,” the official said.
The talks between Israel and the United States on the Iranian nuclear issue will continue on Thursday, when U.S. National Director of Intelligence James Clapper comes to Israel for talks with intelligence and defense establishment heads.
The White House said on Monday that Donilon invited Netanyahu to a meeting with President Barack Obama on March 5.