Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president and prime minister who died on Wednesday at 93, “stopped” Benjamin Netanyahu from launching an attack on Iran.
“I stopped Netanyahu from attacking Iran,” Peres was reported as telling Steve Linde, then-editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, during an August 24, 2014 conversation. Peres stipulated in his interview that the exchange between the two not be reported until after his death.
In 2011, Netanyahu and his defence minister Ehud Barak were actively building their case to attack Iran, saying the Islamic Republic was developing a nuclear bomb. “By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, [Iran] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly in 2012. “From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
Shimon Peres, Israeli Defence Force and members of Israel’s defence establishment opposed Netanyahu’s plans to strike Iran first. A secret cable written by Israel’s intelligence leaked that year further conveyed the dissent brewing within Netanyahu’s own establishment. Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” the cable read.
The Obama administration intervened shortly after a senior official of Israel’s defence establishment visited Washington and disclosed Netanyahu’s plans to attack Iran. President Obama — who was in the initial phases of negotiating his landmark nuclear deal with Iran at the time — sent the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff of the time to Israel to pressure officials not to follow through with an attack.
The move left Netanyahu infuriated and contributed to the tense relationship the the two leaders continue to share to date. Netanyahu was ultimately overruled. And if what Peres said is true, he apparently did more to deter an attack on Iran than either Israel’s defence establishment or the US.
This article originally appeared on The Jerusalem Post.