Shadow Strike
Shadow Strike
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המופע התקיים בתאריך
18.7.19
20:00
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תמלול אירוע Shadow Strike שהתקיים בתאריך 18/07/2019

Yaakov Katz’s new book 'Shadow Strike – Inside Israel’
ברוכים הבאים לבית אביחי, אנו מזמינים אתכם להיות אתנו ולהשתיק את הטלפונים הניידים עד לסיום האירוע. תודה מיד מתחילים.
Good evening, we’re here. Today we are for the publication for this wonderful book, shadow strike, inside Israel’s secret mission to eliminate. We are tonight with former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert. Why is this book relevant today.
We want to thank former PM Olmert for coming, who knows this city very well. What we have in this story, and prime minister Olmert can talk about this later – how can Israel confront Iran’s nuclear program. I was fascinated with this program from the beginning. The operation has Mosad raids, commando raids, the Air Force conducting an air strike with no reprecussions. We have political courage, and the arguments which Olmert had with president Bush at the time, Bush wanted to go in a different direction. The Israeli-US alliance is unbreakable, unshakeable, etc. – whatever adjective you want to use. But this is the real story. Imagine and apply this relation to everything else that happens between the countries. Can you take us back to when your brief at the time, the fact that despite all the assessments Syria is developing its own nuclear capabilities. Well, it wasn’t, I can’t say it was a complete surprise, we had suspicions about a possible involvement of Syria in nuclear matters, and that started even before I was PM, and we were interested to know what they were doing, we didn’t know about the reactor, the location. We had vague suspicions. When I became PM I instructed Intelligence to try and focus on the possible nuclear threat from Syria, it was known at the time already, the nuclear issue with Iran, but Syria was different, I instructed them to do certain things, secret operations, to try and find out what we may know about the Syrians, the head of Mossad and the head of the unit who headed the operation came to receive affirmation. I don’t remember where the book says it was –in Vienna, was this part of the regular weekly meeting with the heads of the branches, or was this something outside the diary. We had two ro three times a week similar meetings. Outside of the borders of Israel no Mossad operation can be carried out without the PM’s approval. The PM knows everything, the name of the participants, I was usrpirsed to find out kids I knew when I was young, suddenly they are mossad agents, it is not completely unexpected in Israel. It was designated to do something in Vienna, I had to approve it, I approved it. Two days, or a day later, it was to be carried out on the same evening in Vienna. One who participated, other than the head of Mossad, was not someone who was supposed to be the head of this operation, but there was supposed to be another operation in Europe. You don’t know if the right people will be at the right time in the right place. We know two days in advance who will be where. Everything has to be carried out in a quick way. The head of Mossad said they can be. There will not be a scandal – Mossad agents found in a place they are not supposed to be. Something strange happened, don’t know if it’s in the book, you can put it in the next edition, I hear it’s a best seller everywhere, it will be after tonight. The material brought in, many pictures, was left on the shelf, and for whatever erason, unknown to this day, someone was supposed to take it to the lab and develop it, forgot about it. It was there for a few days. Some other head of intelligence asked the head of Mossad – where is it? It was found on the shelf. They developed it. They were devastated, it was two weeks later. This is Meir Dagan. We is a very astute and cool, controlled guy. He used to see me twice, three times a week, sometimes more, depending on the operations, he introduced it to me with some of the commanders and fighters who go on operations. If he requests an urgent meeting –I t’s urgent. I was supposed to be observing some prepartaions in the South, for our operation in Gaza. He asked me to come at 5 Pm, he came with a big brown envelope, he said – PM I want to show you something. He pulled out the pictures one by one – an atomic, plutonic reactor in Syria. The pictures indicated this is part of the atomic plutonic reactor in Syria. One by one he told me –t hese are the turbines, the whole thing is a reactor. I don’t think any PM in the state of Israel had such a presentation. We heard of Iran, but this was going on for years. It was similar to Ben Gurion and the German scientists, chemical weapons. Here there were evidence. I said O.k. Dagan said what are we going to do. We are going to destroy it. The rest is history. This story is in the book. There was a two week delay. I didn’t have the privilege to read the book when it was published. So that’s in the book. What PM olmeret is not saying, it is that there’s a knock on the door during his meeting with Dagan. His spokesperson Galante says there’s a story in the news. Yakov I want to get back to you – you spent two years researching the book. The story has been coming out in drips and drabs, the reporting was restricted. You were a military correspondent, we had lots of conversations about this. What was the thing that was most surprising for you in this issue? There was this Mossad raid, imagine it went sideways, it would have been a crisis. The commando operation, the airstrike. All this is cool and interesting. Today airstrikes in Syria happen almost on a daily basis, then they didn’t. Still, the most amazing part of the book – the relationship that evolved between the PM of Israel and the US president. How it could have been handled, the 81 Iraq reactor, then Begin decided not to goto the Americans. I just want to remind you that Barak came in to the picture of the discussions, two and a half months, when he came the president already knew about it. I’m not talking about Barak, the decision to share it with the Americans was much prior to the coming onto the scene of Barak. Yes, but Barak said he would give a negative answer. MY point is, the diplomatic intrigue is the most interesting thing – the phonecalls, behind closed doors. All the publications say – Israel discovers the intelligence, present it to the Americans, PM Olmert says to Bush, I want you to attack, Bush says I’ll think about it. In July Bush says he won’t. Want happened? There were different groups that were set up, the deputy presidents, secretary of defense, chairman of the joint staffs, all coming up with ideas. Bush was coming up with ideas. It was a serious issue in the US, not just Israel. There was a to and fro, in Washington, Israel and between the countries. I was tsruck by one thought. We had Netanyahu serving alongside two American presidents, they were not normal Israel-US relationships. What’s not normal here? O.k. The almost 10 years of Obama and Netanyahu, also dysfunctional. Then it was normal. But we see that it never was. The knowledge you might say no to the US. Israel is Israel, the US is a little bigger. How are you going into a meeting where you might say ‘no’ to Bush. Why was it goo, we thought, it would be good to America? There would have been problems in any case. The Syrians were cautioned, their intelligence, a few months earlier, that Israel and the US are planning an attack in the coming autumn. Prior to the Israeli attack they pulled out all the long range missiles onto the launchers, ready for shooting. By the time we attacked the reactor in Darzul, there wwere missiles ready to fire on every strategic target in Israel. We knew they didn’t know we know they have a reactor. In the event they thought we would attack, they may preempt it. We would lose the surprise factor. After the attack there was a risk that at the event of the attack they would shoot missiles, and we can’t take measures to prevent them preempting it. The risk we took, is that we would destroy the reactor, and the entire state of Israel would be the target of one ton missiles falling at the center of Tel Aviv, not the Kassam missiles. The reason I talked with Bush was my thought of Iran. I discussed it with the Americans. You always say you will not allow the possession of nuclear weapons in unauthorized hands. If you destroy the Syrian reactors the Iranians will believe you might actually do it. That was the logic of me asking them to do it. You said he wasn’t going to do this. Vice president Chaney was entirely in favor of this. You are correct. We’d send stealth bombers and we will destroy it and immediately issue a strong statement that whoever would do that same would suffer the same. The president was a little more hesitant. The point when you know they won’t do it. You’re still talking to the President, he says you don’t want you to do it. He said. How can you go into this meeting, what did you feel? It was a telephone call, we knew it was scheduled at 8 AM American time. I sent a messenger to the White House, he said the Americans were going to attack. We enquired why he didn’t tell us exactly, he left the impression they would do it. He said the President wants to say directly to the PM. I took it for granted that there may be a negative answer, and I thought then, and that’s what I told him, he said Hi buddy, how are you, how Texans speaks, he said – well PM, we discussed three options –Israeli attack, US attack, and diplomatic option, an understood action. He said –I’m against Israeli attack, US attack, I will send Coney Rice, we will knock out the Syrians, a press conference. I didn’t hesitate for a second, as he said this. I said –the responsibility for the security of the State of Israel is mine. You don’t do it, trust me – I’ll do it. Eliot Abraham, and another security advisor is on the line, this is protocol. Eliot Evans says, you interviewed him, he also wrote it. He was petrified. He said – eight years I sat in this office, I never hear someone who never hesitated for one second, excuse me sir, I’m not going to do what you advise me, but what I want to. He said – I expected Olmert ot say he’d wait, think about it. The president by the way had good arguments why he didn’t want to do it, shared the interepretation of the evidence, he said – this is a reactor. He didn’t see that Syrians developed warheads, missiles that can carry and throw atomic bombs. He said, tell me if I’m wrong. I said, the only country that dropped the bomb was the US, you didn’t have missiles, you dropped bombs. We said – we are at such a close distance from any airport in Syria, when it akes off, it is a matter of seconds before it arrives. He said – o.k., I have to report to congress, if we do it – we attacked a state we have diplomatic relations with the US, the embassadors were called off, but the relations exist. They will ask – where did the information came from – Israel. They will say – again America got stuck in a way because of Israel. It was what was said of Iraq, thou we both know you had nothing to do with it. Then he said –t he recommendation of the joint chief of staff, they were against it. They will spread it all over the world, that the President acted without the recommendation of his military advisors. I said – o.k., you don’t do it, I will. They were concerned and nervous. The president was smiling. Evans said – why are you smiling. Bush said – I like him. He got guts. That we won’t say here. What are the impressions of former Bush, perhaps we should have done it differently, perhaps we should have attacked, or were they o.k. with the way it went. Many of the players look back, said that the PM was right in his determination to destroy the reactor. The one person who I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with, who totally agreed with the PM – Chaney, he said the President made the wrong decision, and made it clear to the president. He looks at it so because of the lesson that would have been taught to the Iranians. North Korea tested it’s first nuclear device at the time. The President said – if we catch them proliferating nuclear technology we would have to stop it. The PM finds the head of the Syrian reactor, with the head of the Yong Bjung reactor in NK. There is evidence for this transfer of technology. Not only do we have to make the Syrians and Iranians pay a price, but NK too. You had two strong opponents to the reaction. Bob Gates calls himself pro-Israel, but believed this man had too much influence. After the phone call, he said to the President you can’t do it, which Bush refused to do. He advised – America will change its relation to Israel. Rice did not hold Israel in high regard, clashed with the President on various issues –t he 2nd Lebanon war, the peace summit with the Palestinians. Every secretary of state tries this summit and fails, except the present who is not even trying. This was not the President of 2001. He went to two wars, had fatigue, was afraid of the possible ramifciations. I want to say two things which are important. Once the phone was over, when he said – I love him etc. He said to Steve and Eliot –I appoint two guys to supervise the army to make sure no one interferes with what Olmert wants to do. I heard it much later. I had to take my decisions. It wasn’t green light – no. But also no red light? He said I’m against it, I said –going to do it anyway. He didn’t threaten me. Afterwards I know more. When it was carried out, I knew he was touring Australia, I needed to talk to him to tell him. When I knew, I had an intelligence indication that possibly Assad will not react, which was the main thing, had he reacted, it was overall war in the Middle East with who knows what. When I became somewhat certain he was not going to react, and we are not going to say a word about it. I said, let’s walk to the PM office, which was not far from the situation room. The white house said, the President is not near a safe line, after an hour he came. As Condie Rice said it – a call in a safe line in a hotel in Israel, I was still careful, who knows who may listen when you call from a hotel in Israel. I said – are you in Australia, how is it. Sydney is a great city. Yes, but why are you calling for. Didn’t say it, but the impatience in your voice. I said – you remember there was something in the North I didn’t like, it doesn’t exist anymore. He said –I ‘m so happy. He said –what were your expectations about a possible reaction. I said – for the time being it doesn’t look like it. He said – if there is a reaction, all America is behind you. I said – I think I can go to rest. We are in a good place. It is very rare to read at such depth and detail about decision making in Israel, it doesn’t always work that way. I’m surprised you say it. I hear of the most intimate discussions in the cabinet. I want ot hear the background music. Galante wanted to react to the news. That the police is going to investigate that I wanted to sell Bank Leumi. Which was nonsense. Told him to go to hell. You are a human being, you are being investigated, it led you the wing in Maasiyahu. How does it impact the decisions you had to make, influencing your state of mind, the time you have. There was only this investigation which was nonsense, never developed more than jiust an investigation, but I’d tell you something in principle, about that period or another period, that’s still relevant. If someone is appointed PM he should handle personal issues, and draw the d=istinction between those issues and his mission and obligations. So I think that at the ned of the day it’s a matter of the personality of the person. In your opinion can the current PM carry out the kind of decision making Yakov describes with this hanging over his head. I don’t want to use this event to express my opinion of the PM. By implication you might understand what I could have said but iwill not say it. I have been critized, many people don’t like me, some do. No ne said, that anyone said I did something on state matters, during the time I was prime minister, on any matter of any significance to the state, was affected by personal intrestes, that I may have had. So I think that, you know, one person can, and apparently another can’t. I just want to add, as we all know after Israel attacks, the government for 10 years refuses to acknowledge they bombed the reactor. There were stories who came out. The PM didn’t speak, no one spoke. I said this to him once. Someone asked me –w hat were Olmert’s two great moments in this book – standing up to the US President, the other one, he didn’t agree with me – he was silent as long as he was. At any point, even during his trial, could have said. Every point, you could have said –I saved you all. This was incredible. He could have said and didn’t. One person who went on TV, Neranyahu, who said I was informed, the PM did a great job. That was too generous – he didn’t say he did a great job. He said, on these matters there is no opposition and coalition. I was involved and I congratulate everyone who were involved. I summoned him the night before the operation. Something he didn’t do on anything since he was head of the state. I called him. He was always asking- when are you going to attack. I told my staff, make sure Bibi comes to my home at 8 PM. My wife didn’t know anything about it. I said – I have Bibi now coming I have to tell him something, then I want to go to sleep for two hours, I have something to do in Tel Aviv. Bibi came, I told him, I said – Bibi we decided not to react, comment, say anything, we want to keep silence, that will help prevent a reation, because they would not have to make xplanations, or excuse their failure or whatever. Bibi said OK, I wished success. I slept two hours. You succeeded in sleeping? Definitely. Commander of the Air Force, General Shkedi, an excellent man. He said –I heard you slept two hours before the operation, we were shaking. I said – I could do it because I had you. Another member of the cabinet. I made phone calls to some of the people involved, head of the intelligence at the time. When you are speaking to Olmert I want you to tell him – I was never involved in an operation at such a high level. And – what were Barak’s reservations? I wish the Israeli people at this point are able to understand what are the motivations of Barak. I’m not sure I can be the best alibist of his reservations. He was against a military operation, he said – let’s wait. We said – it will be warmed up, the reactor, and even if we destroy it later, while it is warmed up, with Uranium, it was 700 metres from the Euphrates, it would be polluted, ever Arab along this river will die in the next 50 years, we will be held responsible for the atomic pollution. It’s crazy to do it. And his argument – and if we find a reactor when it’s operative, would we not destroy it? Maybe. But then they would say – you knew it was not operative, why did you wait. I don’t think he’s a traitor to Israel. He did many thinkg, a commander, a PM, did some good things – not many. His argument, in hindsight, an argument that’s also false. His argument may have been – I’m not sure the Israeli army is not ready for war, if there would be a war, we should be more prepared for a war, in the balance we should take the time. 15 years after the second Lebanon war, with no bullet shot over the border, the relative success of the war is perceived differently from what it was then. This was the type of decision I had to take. If we have to take the risk, to suffer serious pain from the 500 missiles, one ton each, that would fall on civilian centres, still – we have to destroy the reactor. If we are ready to fight the Iranians who dind’t have it – what about Syria. This is the decision I took, had to take it. I’m glad that Yadlin was among the pilots who destroyed the reactor in Iraq, if he thinks, that the process of decision making, the way we handled it, was good, appropriate, I feel flattered. The one thing I want to say – it is true, it would be dependent o nthe PM. I could two years later, any time, release this secret, and take the credit and maybe also influence the attitude of some to me. I never said. I was not only later, I could do it, I was asked to do it by some senior ministers. Why they let you lash out at you – you can tell the people of Israel. I said – the interest of the State is more important than my private interests. Yakov you were also an editor of one okf the oldest papers in Israel, a military correspondent, you think that to day the same secret can be kept in the same way, but today with social media, changes between the media and the censorship. I’ll say that in today’s reality, living sadly in the way politics reigns over everything, the ear of populism. The PM was not ot say a word about first strike in Syria. Izenkot was. Everything starts to change. I don’t know that otday in the relation between the PM and the president, this could be kept. Then, even when there was such a disagreement, the PM said with Hutzpa, no, it didn’t evolve to a crisis, we dind’t have hostility, briefings in Washington. Think back to the Obama and Clinton years. The visits, Bush came to Israel, it was after that. He came on the 9th of January. He asked me –w hat is the best time, is it not better that I come for Independence Day, because the Paris conference was a few days later. I said –we don’t have a parade, or anything that makes the day itself better for you to be there than any other day. You talk again about the reaction. Look, after the atomic reactor, and I wish I can share, I didn’t share even with Jacob. No one’s listening. You don’t listen but these guys are. There were many sensitive, significant, crucial military and other operations, which were carried out with complete operational knowledge and support of the US, from the President down. Partly because of the success of the operation on the reactor, and also, what amazed the president and his staff, was the fact that we refrained from saying anything about it. Because there was something they never expected from us. It leaked from them first? No. You said, according to the agreement between the US and NK, America had to inform Congress every half years about the development of the relations regarding the nuclear thing. The president said he had to say that NK violated the agreement by helping build the reactor. I could not say at the Congress, on the other hand –I can’t use the information unless you allow me, by protocol I gave you the information, you have to release it. We had a discussion. I said – we would never put the President of the US where he can’t say the truth to his Congres, but I am sure this will be leaked. But we will say – no comment. Subsequently, it was amazing. He said, my Buddy, you can make a fortune out of it. I said – maybe, but my country comes before me. One of your advisors described to me, twenty nights before the attack, you were taken to a room, the military secretary to the prime minister, many files, very few people see them, were presented to you. You were in the cabinet, health minister, mayor of Jerusalem. But in the files, what you discovered only the PM knows. If there is something in the future files, assuming we have a new PM someday, what will you pass on from this operation. A thing about Sharon, I said – I will be briefed about anything like I am PM. About the secret operations, only the PM, all the bodies, some of them not known to exist, report to the PM. I knew everything, there was one thing I didn’t know, one thing, which had I leaked it, and some people know it. It would have exploded the world. I didn’t say it. Everything else. What you would tell the future PM, what should he be briefed. Had I been briefing an incoming PM. If we have another PM. It will happen in two months. It will happen. I will refer you to the 11th of April, everyone were celebrating the victory of the Right, I was on channel 13. I said –there is no big victory, they lost votes. They said – the country is going to be right wing. They lost. The PM had a personal performance which was impressive in the sense that they took the mandate from his own partners, in the block there was not a change. Number 2 I don’t see he can form a government. What Liberman and Litzman says there will not be a government, Liberman can dictate a public agenda for the state of Israel. I was looked at as an idiot. I say to the PM – make sure you go to sleep at 10 PM and wake up at 7 AM. A PM needs to perform well. I didn’t run at 5. I made sure no one would wake me at the red telephone unless it was monumental. This didn’t usually happen. A terrorist was seen at the fence – can’t I know it at 7 AM? One lesson what happned with the reactor. A PM has to be patient, to define for himself what is important for the security of his country, and that which is important, to carry out no matter what forces stand in his way. I had to argue with the president, opponents, I knew what I wanted to do, I went hrough, and thank god. By the way ISIS took over the area the reactor was built on. Thank god what heppned. Thank you for coming and joining us tonight. Thank you mister Almert. Do we have time for a couple of questions?
Any questions?
Do you want to just comment on twhat the former PM said, did he say the same story to you? It is almost word for word as if he quoted from the book. There’s more in the book. The conversation with Bush, some of it is based on transcripts, other participants, the phonecall, when Bush called Israel, had two of his staff members, the security advisor, six people to hear how the phone call went down. A lot of the research I did – download from them what went down there. Did NK sustain any consequences? It is a great question, important question too. A lot of person I interviewed said – if you think what a great threat they are to the world, their origins are in this story. October 2006 they tested their first nuclear device, if we catch them transferring this technology they would be punished. But they weren’t – they were rewarded. Chris Hill, who was conducting discussions on this topic. Meets the NK nuclear negotiator, puts the photos of Dagan before him. Guan says –they’re photoshped. But as they come out they are removed. Condie removed them fro mthe list of countries supporting terrorism, she thought they were close to the agreement. Obama’s presidency – they test 5 more nuclear weapons. Were they made to pay a price for the Syrian reactor, it would have been different. Today we can’t make them dismantle their weapons. That is why Iran has to be stopped. But if not, it would be a country like NK that would be impossible to stop ever. If at some point in the future you write a book about the destruction of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. This was one nuclear facility, in Iran it’s a vastly different operation. Almert said the strategy was that the US would hit the reactor, Iran would react. Dir-azul was close, Bibi si not Almert. How would you call that book? And can we do it? I don’t know what’s the name of the book – what is the fallout, will it be successful. You are right, on the one hand, we have here a blueprint of what can go down between Israel and Iran. There are differences that this case of Syria, single facilities above ground. Iran – the facilities are below ground, burrowed beneath a movement. Israeli military planners can say they can set the program back. If you go to 81, they thought the best case scenario was to send back the reactor a year. He never rebuilt it. Syria – never rebuilt. IS one year enough. What is the price – bring missiles on Israel. Can you live with a nuclear Iran? The Israeli government says you can’t. It’s not a technocratic reason. I came to writing this book with a lot of skepticism about Almert, he ended by bringing a sense of shame to Israel, the first PM to go to jail. But when this was brought to his cabinet, people in the IDF, the Mossad, blown away by how he handled it. A statesman who aceted in a certain way. Would another Israeli PM act in the same way? He had his moment in history. Begin had his moment in 79, camp david, and 81. We don’t know if it will happen with Netanyahu. \Thank you very much. Shadow Strike, Yakov Katz, buy the book it’s outside. Thank you.

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