NEW YORK – Most media reports on The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on
Sunday focused on an acrimonious argument in the first afternoon panel
discussion on Israel’s security situation.
The outburst was triggered by
a question from moderator Herb Keinon, the Post’s diplomatic reporter, to former
Mossad chief Meir Dagan about former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin’s criticism
last week of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud
Diskin, it will be recalled, said Netanyahu and Barak had
“messianic” impulses, and were misleading the public about the possible
effectiveness of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Kfar Saba on Friday, he cited experts as saying an Israeli military strike on
Iran would only help expedite the Iranian nuclear program.
by the moderator, Dagan voiced support for Diskin, and his harsh language
provoked Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) to immediately
intervene in support of Netanyahu.
But the panelists’ tempers flared, and
the debate became a free-for-all, with mutual name-calling and shouting. It may
have been typical of a panel discussion on Israeli TV, but the American audience
was somewhat shocked, to say the least.
What follows, for the record, is
a transcript of what transpired.
Keinon: What do you think about Yuval
Diskin’s comments and his characterization of the prime minister and defense
minister as being messianic?
Dagan: Yuval Diskin is a very serious man. He is a
very capable man. He had a great deal of experience in confronting terror. I
believe he spoke on the issue [about what] he really believes, and if you want
to ask him this question, I suggest you talk to him instead. (laughter from
Keinon: But do you think it’s appropriate for him to make those kind
of comments? He could have made them when he was the head of the Shin Bet (the
Israel Security Agency)?
Dagan: First of all, I think he presented his position
loudly and clearly about his refusal to the prime minister and defense minister.
He didn’t announce it. It was in a closed room. To speak openly? (Turning to
Gilad Erdan) I heard that a member of your party is now formulating a law... on
behalf of my name, Dagan, preventing ex-people of the military and security
establishment from speaking. Let me remind you of something, sir, what was
started in Germany in the beginning.
You know how you are starting it;
you don’t know how it is ending.
About Diskin, I believe that he is a
very serious man and he is presenting a very serious point of view. And I know
that serious point of view was presented to the prime minister and defense
minister on many occasions.
Erdan: Can I comment?
Keinon: If you’d like
to comment, please...
Erdan: I must say that I’m quite surprised to hear
what Meir Dagan said because, you know, I admire everything that Gabi
[Ashkenazi] or Diskin did for the security of Israel.... But I must tell you
that I hope I didn’t understand what you mentioned about Germany.
a democracy and every member of Knesset can suggest whatever he wants, and if it
will get the majority in the Knesset, so it will be a law in Israel. It doesn’t
mean that the government agrees with every law that comes from the
But I must say it is quite surprising to hear people like Yuval
Diskin, who served under Prime Minister Netanyahu or under Defense Minister
Olmert: Gilad, he didn’t serve under Barak. The only person in
charge of the head of the security services is the prime minister and not the
minister of defense.
Erdan: Thank you very much, but I know that the Shin
Bet is under the Prime Minister’s Office. (laughter) I also used to work there
15 or 16 years ago.
But the minister of defense still works together
[with the prime minister], and if Yuval Diskin thought the prime minister was
doing things so dangerous for the future of Israel, so in order to save Israel,
he should resign, and not wait five years as head of the Shin Bet and then even
agree to serve one more year.
And then, when resigning and when the prime
minister does not accept his guy to be appointed as head of the Shin
Dagan: It’s not true. (boos) You are lying, sir. I am maybe not
polite, but I prefer ministers of the State of Israel who speak the
Erdan: I prefer that former heads of Mossad and Shin Bet won’t
make damage to Israel.... That’s what I expect from you. Mr. Netanyahu goes
around the world, and he never says that we are going to attack Iran, or when or
where, but he is doing a lot of efforts in order to raise the awareness, and it
You see the economic sanctions. And you go out, and Yuval
Diskin is going out, and saying, “You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that.
Israel can attack, Israel cannot attack.”
What you did for the security
of Israel, we admire. If you want to join a political party, maybe we should
consider what you offer, that you can run for the Knesset after one year or even
Don’t [hide] behind theories or things that Yuval Diskin said....
You said he’s a serious guy. How can a serious guy say they [think] they’re the
messiah? Who said they’re the messiah? (applause).