In interviews with Israel's Channels 2 and 10 on Thursday, President Shimon Peres made several remarks that have infuriated government officials.
The following issues have been highlighted by officials following Peres' controversial remarks:
1. In the past, Israeli presidents have refrained from meddling in issues that are clearly the responsibility of the political echelon, especially sensitive, classified, defense-related topics. Peres, say government officials, deviated from this principle in his remarks to the media on Thursday.
2. Peres claimed on Thursday that the Israeli strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 was a mistake and the U.S. finished the job during the First Gulf War. Peres said the reactor was not capable of producing material for a nuclear weapon and the Iraqis had moved on to the usage of centrifuges to enrich uranium. Only the Americans, he said, were able to stop Iraq's centrifuge program at a later stage.
According to government officials, this claim is unfounded. During both Gulf wars, U.S. troops found very few centrifuges in Iraq and there was no evidence of a large number of industrial centrifuges operating in the country like those now operating in Iran. In any case, in the First Gulf War in 1991, then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons, which proves that the Israeli strike in 1981 set back Iraq's nuclear program at least ten years.
3. Peres is the author of the term "A new Middle East." Commenting on the Islamic revolution in Egypt, Peres said that some good may yet result from that process.
Officials point out that this remark by Peres comes at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood effectively rules the country, President Mohammed Morsi has recently sacked his senior military officers who were considered watchdogs of the peace treaty with Israel, and Morsi has reportedly deployed tanks and helicopter gunships in the Sinai Peninsula without prior consultation with Israel, as the treaty requires.
4. Peres said no Israeli military action will be undertaken in Iran before presidential elections in the U.S. in November.
According to government officials, aside from the public debate on the matter, Peres' remark was a possible severe violation of the censorship law as well as a violation of a law against exposing operational information to an enemy.
5. Peres recalled that every U.S. president went to war, something he felt meant that the current president would also do so against Iran if it became necessary.
In fact, say the officials, since the beginning of the 1970s, most U.S. presidents, including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagen — excluding several small-scale military operations, such as those in Grenada and Panama — did not involve the U.S. in war.
6. On Peres' remarks about mistakes being made in situation evaluations, officials say Peres was the architect of the Oslo Accords, which led to the Second Intifada and the loss of 1,000 Israeli lives. Peres, they say, also supported Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005, saying "They can convert the evacuated settlements in the Gaza Strip to Club Med holiday resorts."
Since settlements were evacuated from Gaza, the officials point out, thousands of rockets have rained down on Israel, which forced the IDF to carry out Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008.