Olmert struck Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 immediately after Bush refused
to do so
‘If you’re not going to act against the reactor, then we are,’ PM told
president, says advisor Elliot Abrams. Then, as now on Iran, the US favored
By Yoel Goldman Times of Israel August 26, 2012, 10:51 pm1
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert ordered the 2007 strike on a Syrian
nuclear reactor immediately after former US president George W. Bush
informed him that the Americans would not attack the facility, according to
a Channel 10 report aired on Sunday evening.
Bush’s deputy national security adviser Elliot Abrams was present when the
president called Olmert on September 6, 2007 and made clear that the US
would not take action, and that then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice
would fly to Israel to hold a joint press conference with Olmert to alert
the international community of the secret reactor. The US had decided to
handle the Syrian threat via diplomacy.
Olmert responded to Bush that the secretary’s visit would not be necessary
and that Israel would deal with the nuclear facility on its own.
“If you’re not going to act against the reactor then we are,” Abrams quoted
Olmert as saying during the teleconference. “You don’t want to know where or
when,” the former prime minister reportedly added.
The Israelis were convinced that time was fairly short, and that they had to
strike the reactor — built by the Syrians with extensive input from the
North Koreans — before it went live, the TV report said.
Israel has never claimed responsibility for the strike, named Operation
Orchard, which occurred shortly after midnight on the same day. And Syria
has never acknowledged that its nuclear reactor was destroyed.
According to Abrams, three hours after the strike, Olmert called the former
US president and spoke briefly regarding the mission.
“I did what was necessary,” Abrams quoted Olmert as saying. To which Bush
simply replied, “I thank you.”
According to the Channel 10 report, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was
initially against the strike, possibly because of personal political
considerations. However, the only minister who actually voted against taking
out the reactor was Avi Dichter.
Dozens of Syrians were killed in the strike, as well as 10 North Koreans who
were presumably helping with technical aspects of the secret facility, the
TV report said.
The TV report was broadcast amid reports in recent days that Israel is
considering a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. In contrast to the
public silence before the Syrian strike, and before Israel’s 1981 raid that
destroyed Saddam Hussein’s reactor at Osirak, however, the question of
whether Israel should resort to military intervention against Iran’s nuclear
facilities has been the subject of feverish public debate for months.
With Iran as with Syria, however, the Americans are urging that more time be
given to diplomacy, and the Israelis are stressing the urgent imperative for