Diskin: Fatah-Hamas agreement is a façade, won't last

Shin Bet chief calls to continue security coordination with PA; warns of Israeli-Arab threat as great as Iran nuke.

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May 4, 2011 16:05
4 minute read.
Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin at HLS int'l conference

Yuval Diskin 311. (photo credit: Sivan Faraj )

 
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The reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas will not last, and there will not be genuine Palestinian unity for years to come, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin predicted on Wednesday in a rare briefing to the press.

“I think the chance of a real reconciliation between the sides over the next two or three years is slim,” said Diskin, who will step down on May 15 after six years at the Shin Bet helm. He will be succeeded by Yoram Cohen, a former deputy.

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Hamas’s refusal to allow Fatah to regain a foothold in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah’s refusal to allow Hamas to regain a foothold in the West Bank, are two of the main obstacles to genuine reconciliation, he said.

“The signing of the agreement creates a facade of unity, but it is unclear how they will implement the agreement on the ground,” Diskin added.

Other problems include Hamas’s refusal to accept the Quartet’s conditions – recognizing Israel’s right to exist, recognizing previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and a cessation of terror activity – as well as the two sides’ inability to establish a joint security force.

Despite the expected establishment of a new government, Diskin said he did not believe Israel needed to suspend its ongoing coordination with PA security forces in the West Bank. Some defense officials have expressed reservations about this as Fatah establishes a new government with Hamas.

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“It is not worth getting into a situation that is irreversible,” he said. “As long as the security forces do not change their policies and action on the ground there is no reason for us to change our policy.”

Diskin also played down the possibility that a third intifada would break out in the territories on May 15, as called for by several Facebook groups, or following a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood in September at the United Nations. He said a lot depended on the steps Israel takes to counter the Palestinian push for independence.

“The world will not turn upside down on October 1,” he said. “If, however, there is a complete deadlock, this could lead to frustration – although I don’t know when that will be, and it will depend a lot on what steps Israel takes.”

Nevertheless, Diskin expressed hope that the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation would advance negotiations aimed at securing the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. The signing of the agreement in Egypt, he said, meant the Egyptian government now has more influence over Hamas and could possibly assist in leading the sides toward an agreement on a prisoner swap.

In the wide-ranging briefing, Diskin also took “personal responsibility” for Israel’s failure to secure Schalit’s release.

The Armored Corps soldier was abducted by Hamas in June 2006 during Diskin’s leadership of the Shin Bet.

“I did not succeed in securing his release – not in a military operation or through negotiations – and I see myself, as head of the Shin Bet, as the person responsible,” Diskin said. “I feel great sadness that Gilad is not with us.”

He added that Israel had invested “resources, efforts and operations” to gain his release but in the end failed.

“This is a tactical incident that turned into an affair with strategic consequences for the State of Israel,” he said, adding that the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War some two weeks after Schalit’s kidnapping forced the country to shift its focus and resources for a period of time, during which it lost critical opportunities.

He also warned that the failure to properly integrate Israeli Arabs into society could have consequences for the country that are as strategic in nature as Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The ongoing upheaval in the Middle East, Diskin warned, has the potential to spread to Israel due to the continued conflict with the Palestinians and the tenuous relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

“We are constantly keeping an eye to see if there is change that will take us somewhere else,” he said.

Diskin also pointed out the rising threat that radical right-wing Jewish groups pose to the state as well as to the Palestinian population in the West Bank. He said he was most concerned with the so-called Hilltop Youth and with “Kahanistim” or followers of slain far-right-wing Rabbi Meir Kahane.

“I detect anti-government, anti-establishment and even delusional messianic processes within these groups,” he said.

Diskin also referred to the Shin Bet security detail responsible for protecting the prime minister, adding that another assassination of a prime minister by a Jew would be “tantamount to the destruction of the Third Temple.”

“The rift that is already in Israeli society will become too great to overcome,” he said.

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