Yuval Diskin, the former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), has an
impressive record in the non-stop battle Israel fights against
terrorism. As with intelligence chiefs and secret services worldwide,
most of his achievements will remain confidential even in generations to
It appears, and not for the first time, that rich operational and
security experience do not guarantee success in the public
Diskin’s outburst in the media contained two basic errors that
usually characterize young politicians. The first was unrefined personal
bickering with political opponents. The second was a preference for generalized
statements instead of in-depth reasoning.
Despite his amateur opening,
there is no reason to doubt the purity of Diskin’s intentions. As chairman of
the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, I followed Diskin’s
activities for five consecutive years.
Diskin has integrity and has never
backtracked from presenting all his views, even when these conflicted with his
commanders’ views. The government spokesmen who try to attribute to him a hidden
agenda, personal or political, should be condemned.
Ministers who rushed
to defend the dignity of the prime minister and defense minister fell into the
exact same pothole that Diskin did. Instead of making a serious attempt to
counter the criticism of Diskin, they chose instead to slander his motives and
stain his past.
One minister stated that “Diskin continues a tradition of
stupid Shabak [Shin Bet] leaders.” A second minister argued that “because of
Diskin, [Gilad] Schalit rotted for years in captivity.”
One would expect
that responsible leaders would respond to criticism in a substantive way and not
be dragged into a violent “talkback” dialogue.
Diskin, like former Mossad
director Meir Dagan, has warned against the dangerous consequences of Israeli
action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
His criticism focused on three
issues. First, the estimate that a military strike cannot prevent Iran
from achieving a nuclear capability. Second, the possibility that an attack
would in reality dramatically accelerate the Iranian nuclear program. And
most importantly, Diskin’s decisive assertion that he has no confidence in Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
There is no
point in arguing against Diskin’s subjective feelings regarding the level of
trust he has for Israel’s current leadership. He has every right as a citizen
who wants to influence the future of his country to disapprove of personalities
seeking the public’s trust and to state this publicly. But Diskin’s statements
on the Iranian issue raise fundamental doubts.
Regarding the question of
Iran, Diskin has no advantage over any other skilled commentator. His
specialties are fighting terrorism, countering ideological radical elements and
exposing spies against Israel.
The Iranian threat poses the country’s
leaders with dilemmas different from those which Diskin successfully faced for
many years. It is directly connected to the political world, Israel’s foreign
relations, our alliance with the United States, complex technology and military
tactics, as well as intelligence and operational matters that are not the Shin
Diskin, of course, should not be prevented from
expressing an opinion on this crucial subject, but the complexity of the issue
requires that any reference to it be much deeper than a mere mention of two
Whoever sees it as his duty to warn against a certain
policy is not exempt from the necessity to present a full view on the issue in
question. It is also his duty to offer a real alternative to a policy he
In Diskin’s statement, many dimensions were missing: Does he
agree with the assumption that Iran intends to arm itself with nuclear weapons?
Does he recommend waiting for US military action? Does he believe there is a
chance that such action will take place? Does he hope the sanctions imposed on
Iran will change the situation? Is there any benefit from the resumption of
negotiations between the superpowers and Iran?
Would a global acceptance of a
nuclear Iran lead to a change in Diskin’s approach to the subject? Is an Israeli
acceptance of a nuclear Iran preferable to attacking Iran? What is his solution
to the danger that the failure of the global effort to prevent the
nuclearization of Iran could lead Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey, Egypt
and Jordan to join a nuclear race?
Is he concerned about the possibility of
tactical nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a terrorist organization in
Middle East states armed with weapons of mass destruction? These are just some
of the questions Diskin, like many of the opponents of using force against the
Iranian nuclear program, has not yet made a true and courageous attempt to
answer. Let’s hope that Diskin’s next public appearance will focus on
this.This article was translated by Moria Dashevsky.The writer is a
former cabinet minister and chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense