In a recent public speech, David Barnea, the head of Israel’s vaunted intelligence agency, did something very unusual: he declared that his organization was ready to strike “deep in Iran, in the very heart of Tehran,” if the Islamic Republic harmed Israeli citizens. As a rule, high-ranking Israeli security officials, and especially those associated with the Mossad, avoid making explicit threats of this sort. Meir Ben-Shabbat believes that Barnea’s words weren’t directed at Tehran at all, but at Washington:
The U.S. administration under President Biden, which has sought to lower the profile of the Iranian problem and to remove the danger of a military confrontation with it as far as possible, is now seeing the tangible results of its policy: a growing sense of confidence in Iran, leading to defiant activity on its nuclear program [and its] providing aid to Russia in the form of supplying Moscow with drones for its combat effort in Ukraine—compounded by a significant increase in its efforts to promote acts of terrorism around the globe, owing to a feeling that it will not be required to pay any real price for all of this.
The Mossad chief’s speech, only a few days prior to the arrival of the prime minister in the U.S. for a meeting with Biden and attendance at the UN General Assembly, constitutes a good preparation for these two key events. For understandable reasons, Barnea did not point an accusatory finger at our good friends in Washington, but as the popular [Middle Eastern] idiom has it—he “shouted at the tree so that the camel might hear.”
Although tough Israeli talk on the Iranian issue might not go down too well with those U.S. administration officials, who are currently working hard to establish normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, it does accurately reflect the situation that has developed under the auspices of their policy and will serve to clarify Israel’s current priority: neutralizing the existential threat posed by Iran, [which, in Jerusalem’s view, rightly] takes precedence even over normalization with Saudi Arabia.