March 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
The quick answer is only partially. In undertaking such a big decision, the Prime Minister needs to gain approval of a larger group of ministers. Eli Lake reported on the smaller group called the Octet (Shminiya in Hebrew) that is comprised of an informal group of seven officials aside from Netanyahu – Ehud Barak (Defense), Avigdor Lieberman (Foreign), Eli Yishai (Interior), Dan Meridor (Intelligence), Moshe Yaalon (Strategic Affairs), Yuval Steinitz (Finance), and Benny Begin (minister without a profile).
However, Lake’s take is not entirely accurate, since there is a Lake focuses on the Octet, but also mentions the larger official security-political cabinet of fourteen that would probably have to give the official go-ahead before Netanyahu undertakes a decision. There is a lot of speculation on where people fall on the issue with some waffling, and Lake contends that Lieberman has switched his position from being against a strike to being in favor of a strike. There was a report in Maariv last week (Hebrew language only) that in the group of fourteen, eight are in favor of an attack and six are against. Of perhaps greater consequence though is that four members of the Octet – Yaalon, Yishai, Meridor, and Begin – are currently opposed to Israel carrying out a strike, and if Lake is correct that this is the group that actually needs to come to an informal consensus, it contributes more evidence to my argument that an attack on Iran is not imminent. Other people to watch are high ranking IDF officials, with Chief of Staff Benny Gantz having to be on board for a strike irrespective of the cabinet’s views. Pay attention to the speculation that you read arguing that Israel will or will not go ahead with a strike, and remember that anyone who paints it simplistically as being solely up to Bibi and his mood does not have any real idea how the Israeli political system works. Netanyahu is in favor of an attack, but unlike George W. Bush he is not The Decider.