In the three meetings Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held with Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz on May 7, the two discussed at length the issue of Iran's nuclear program. Netanyahu sought to clarify whether Mofaz supported his policy on the issue and his position on the way to stop the Iranian race toward a nuclear bomb.
Mofaz confirmed that he agreed with Netanyahu on the way to stop the Iranian nuclear program and supported his position regarding the possibility of Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations. "Mofaz is of one mind with Netanyahu," a senior political source, updated on the talks between the two, said May 8. Such support on the part of Mofaz [the newly appointed Israeli Deputy Prime Minister in the surprise national unity government announced early May 8] significantly strengthens the stance presented by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak on this sensitive issue in the forum of eight senior ministers (from now on, with Mofaz, the forum of nine senior ministers) [that serves as an inner security cabinet within the Israeli Cabinet]. Mofaz himself said in closed talks that he intended to play a decisive role with regard to the Iranian issue — in the security cabinet, as well as in narrower forums.
Netanyahu "gave" US President Barack Obama time until the coming autumn to resolve through diplomacy the issue of Iran's nuclear program. The Israeli timetable for military assault is somewhere around September-October and anyway, before the presidential elections in the United States, which are slated for November. Under the American schedule, any military operation, if any, will not take place in the coming months. Netanyahu has made it clear to Obama that he insists on Israel's right to solve the problem by military means.
Netanyahu has an obvious interest in having Mofaz on the unofficial narrow ministerial panel of the security cabinet, where the Prime Minister faces solid opposition on the part of [Minister without Portfolio] Benny Begin, [Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy] Dan Meridor and apparently even [Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs, IDF's ex-Chief of Staff] Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon — who are against a military operation in Iran. The position presented by Mofaz on the issue may thus be highly significant. And since, more often than not, the views publicly voiced by politicians differ to a large extent from the opinions they express in off-the-record, behind-the-scenes deliberations, Netanyahu wanted to make sure that Mofaz saw eye-to-eye with him.
Until only a few days ago, Mofaz was warning against the position expressed by Netanyahu and Barak on the Iranian issue. Mofaz used to attack the two, claiming that they were conducting a scaring campaign in an attempt to shift public attention away from the domestic problems weighing on Israeli society. In interviews to the media, Mofaz declared once again that the military option should be the last resort option. However, Netanyahu apparently knew somehow that these public attacks did not necessarily reflect Mofaz's real stance on the issue. [Being a seasoned politician himself,] Netanyahu realized that Mofaz had to demonstrate leadership in his confrontation with Tzipi Livni [former Kadima leader, who lost to Mofaz in the recent party primaries] and thus did not take Mofaz's public statements at face value.
Netanyahu and Mofaz go back a long way, even though over the years, they have had their conflicts and disagreements. Mofaz took part in the 1976 counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israel Defense Forces' elite commando unit at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda under the command of Benjamin Netanyahu's brother, Lt. Col. Yoni Netanyahu, who was killed in action. Mofaz was appointed the IDF Chief of Staff during Netanyahu's first tenure as Prime Minister. Mofaz attended all the memorials held since 1976 in honor of Yoni Netanyahu and maintained close relations with the Prime Minister's father, Benzion Netanyahu, who passed away in April. Orit Mofaz, the wife of the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister, participated for long years in Bible classes held by the late Shmuel Ben Artzi, Benjamin Netanyahu's father in-law.
According to sources familiar with the talks held May 7 by Netanyahu and Mofaz, the verbal clashes between the two, carried on until quite recently, have given way to newly found harmony, warm relations and mutual understanding.
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