Netanyahu, Barak clashed with army over Iran attack - report

JERUSALEM Mon Nov 5, 2012 1:52pm IST

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Defence Minister Ehud Barak after a non-confidence vote at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Defence Minister Ehud Barak after a non-confidence vote at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem June 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered Israeli defence chiefs in 2010 to prepare for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities but were rebuffed, a television report said.

Excerpts released on Monday of an Israeli Channel 2 documentary said the armed forces' chief of staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi, and Mossad intelligence head Meir Dagan both objected to the order to raise the military's alert level to "F-Plus", which means a strike could be imminent.

Barak, interviewed on the Uvda investigative show, said Ashkenazi told him the army did not have the operational capability for a successful strike against Iran's nuclear programme, which Israel believes is aimed at producing weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.

The documentary said Ashkenazi disputes Barak's account and that he told confidants that while the military was capable of carrying out such an attack, to do so would be a strategic mistake.

Ashkenazi, the report added, cautioned that just giving the order to raise the alert status could set off a chain of events that could spiral out of control and lead to a wider conflict.

In an excerpt broadcast before the programme airs later on Monday, Barak played down the significance of the alert order.

"It is not true that creating a situation in which the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) ... are on alert for a few hours or a few days to carry out certain operations forces Israel to go through with them," Barak said.

Dagan, who since his retirement as Mossad chief has voiced opposition to a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, accused Netanyahu and Barak at the time of trying to launch a war illegally without cabinet approval, the television report said, citing participants at security discussions.

Barak and Netanyahu have since signalled that an attack on Iran was not imminent. In September, Netanyahu told the United Nations that Tehran would be on the brink of nuclear weapons' capability only in the spring or summer of 2013.

Barak said last week that Iran has pulled back on its nuclear programme, which has given Israel more time to contemplate its next steps.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell)

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