Israel stepped back from brink of war with Iran in 2010

The day Israeli Prime Minister ordered the military to prepare for war – but was stopped by an internal revolt


The Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the brink of triggering war against Iran in 2010, according to charges levelled in an Israeli TV documentary.

According to previews of Uvda ("Fact") on Israel's Channel 2, only a revolt by Israel's military chief and Mossad director prevented the country from being placed on full attack readiness.

Israeli leaders are increasingly alarmed at the Islamic Republic's steady march towards the development of nuclear capability, convinced that the combination of nuclear warheads, a fast-developing ballistic missile industry and repeated calls by Iranian leaders to remove Israel from the map threaten the future existence of the Jewish state.

United States and European-backed sanctions against Iran now appear to be biting, but two years ago they seemed ineffectual in dampening Tehran's nuclear ambitions. In the programme, Mr Barak confirms that at the end of a meeting of Israel's security cabinet in 2010, he and Mr Netanyahu instructed the Chief-of-Staff, Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, and the Mossad director Meir Dagan to initiate a "P Plus" code – placing the military on full alert to launch an imminent attack.

General Ashkenazi said he was concerned that the heightened alert might set in motion processes that would unwittingly trigger the attack. "It's not something you do if you're not sure you want to follow through with it," General Ashkenazi told his political commanders.

"The army was ready to attack, but I also said that attacking then would be a strategic mistake," he said afterwards.

Mr Dagan was even more blunt. "You might be making an illegal decision about going to war," he warned the Prime Minister and Defence Minister. "Only the cabinet is authorised to decide this."

Afterwards, Mr Dagan said: "The Prime Minister and Defence Minister were trying to hijack a war." US officials launched a public campaign against an Israeli strike. Since leaving office last year, both General Ashkenazi and Mr Dagan have repeatedly criticised Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak for warmongering against Iran.

Their description mirrors the more recent experience of the former Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, who briefly joined Mr Netanyahu's government this year.

"Mr Netanyahu is obsessed with an Israeli attack on Iran," said Mr Mofaz. "In the 70 days that I sat in government, more than half the meetings that Mr Netanyahu arranged with me were spent in attempts to persuade me we should attack Iran without American or Western support."

However, Mr Barak said his desire to test Israeli military preparedness had been misinterpreted.

"It's not true that creating the situation whereby the Israel Defence Forces and the other operational arms of the state are on alert for a few hours, a few days, ready to undertake certain operations, forces the state of Israel to carry them out," Mr Barak said.

The two security chiefs were not the only ones who believed they were the only people standing in the way of a major war. By mid-2010, Israeli concerns about Iran were being taken so seriously that leaders of the G8 countries meeting for a summit in Ontario believed "absolutely" that an Israeli attack was imminent, according to Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister at the time.

Both Mr Dagan and General Ashkenazi appear to believe that attempts to counter the Iranian nuclear threat should avoid military action that could escalate into regional conflict. "We must carry out a covert campaign, everything that is below the threshold of war, the threshold of a strike," General Ashkenazi told Israel's Council for Peace and Security in August.

Israel is believed to be responsible for at least three computer viruses that have infected the control systems of Iran's nuclear centrifuges, a series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear research scientists, and a string of mysterious accidents at Iranian military installations.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent