Like some sort of national masochism, the upper echelons of Israel's political-military elite continue to tread the turbid waters of a possible strike against Iran. Anat Kamm, convicted of stealing classified documents during her military service and passing them on to a reporter, is an innocent little girl compared to some of these former defense officials.
Meretz party leader MK Zehava Gal-On joined in the chatter on Sunday, when she proposed that if the cabinet decided to attack Iran's nuclear installations, it would need to seek prior approval from the Knesset Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services.
This proposal prompted many questions: Are we seeing an erosion of the government's right and duty to take a decision? Is the Knesset being turned into part of the executive when the role of a parliament should be to supervise the government, but not be its partner? And most importantly, what happens if the committee member from the opposition then leaks the decision on the attack to the chairwoman of his party and an almighty fuss ensues?
According to a story published this week, then-IDF Chief of Staff Rafael (Raful) Eitan called together his retired colleagues in 1981 and told them about the impending strike on the Iraqi reactor. One of those present was Haim Bar-Lev, who at the time was the Labor party's candidate for defense minister, and he told Shimon Peres of the plan. Peres wrote to then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and the strike was postponed. Had Peres chalked up two more such successes, we would have had to live under the shadow of a nuclear Iraq.
Ehud Barak once asked an American official if the U.S. would have dared to act against a nuclear Iraq in 1991, and was met by a round of applause. But Peres never forgave Begin, who didn't listen to him. Luckily for us.
The danger of idle chatter is far greater today than it was 31 years ago. Describing the various operational options in a possible strike in minute detail weakens Israel and virtually revokes the government's right and duty to make a decision.
We should, however, differentiate between the debate over whether Israel should live with a nuclear Iran, or whether Israel should strike before Iran goes nuclear — which is a legitimate subject for debate — and the leaking of operational details that signal to Iran when it needs to ready its response team.
But there is something in Gal-On's proposal that may be worth adopting. Israel embarked on the Sinai Campaign 56 years ago, one of the most important and successful campaigns ever undertaken by Israel. David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues flew to Paris to finalize the details with France and Britain. When they returned, even before informing all his ministers, Ben-Gurion called in his sworn — and back then hated — foe, Begin, and told him about the campaign, and asked for his opinion. Ben-Gurion acted wisely. Begin could be trusted, both because he was a patriot and because he would not leak the plans to anyone.
This event should be etched in Netanyahu's heart. If, God forbid, the time comes to buckle up and hit the road, he should find worthy and distinguished members of the opposition to share the burden of the natural pressure of an attack.