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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Avi Dichter commented on Tuesday morning on the propriety of current Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin's remarks made at the yeshiva in Eli over a month ago.
He was convinced that Diskin spoke professionally when he said that he was personally opposed to unilateral land concessions to the Palestinians.
"It was not at all a political statement, it was a professional statement," he told Israel Radio.
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In the remarks revealed on Channel 10 on Monday night, Diskin made a clear break from the political echelon. He said: "The political echelon can do whatever it wants, but from a security standpoint I am opposed to transferring additional land to the Palestinians unless there is someone there who can take control."
"It is totally clear that when Yuval Diskin is invited to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he is essentially being invited to the program 'Meet the Press,' since all of his comments will be publicized after that, but with alterations as each Knesset member relates them. Therefore, I am convinced that when he spoke in Eli, just like when Ami Ayalon spoke in the past in yeshivasâ€¦ I'm sure Yuval took into consideration that what he said would be published. I'm sure he was fully aware," Dichter emphasized.
MK Ran Cohen was vehemently opposed to Diskin's remarks, and wanted to remove the Shin Bet head from his post.
MK Yuval Steinitz disagreed with Cohen's condemnation, telling Israel Radio that just like a chief of staff, or any official, can speak at a conference, Diskin can speak to a national religious crowd, or to whomever he chooses. "They need to feel a part of the country, too," Steinitz noted.
Diskin was taped during a speech he gave the students about a range of issues from Jewish and Palestinian terrorism to the war in Iraq.
The speech took place before Hanukka and before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered his incapacitating stroke.
At that time, Sharon had said on numerous occasions he was opposed to any further unilateral withdrawals. Since then, however, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indicated during an address last month at the Herzliya Conference that further unilateral withdrawals were a possibility.
During that speech, Olmert said while Israel would "prefer an agreement" with the Palestinians, "if our expected partners in the negotiations in the framework of the road map do not uphold their commitments, we will preserve the Israeli interest at all cost."
Olmert said the "most dramatic and important step" Israel faced was shaping the permanent borders of the country to ensure a Jewish majority.
He said a "clear boundary" reflecting the demographic reality on the ground needed to be created "as soon as possible."
One official in Olmert's office responded to Diskin's remarks by saying that if the time ever came again when there was a discussion about transferring more land to Palestinian control, Diskin would surely be able to express his opinions.
During his comments at Eli, Diskin also lamented the lack of equality in Israel between Jews and Arabs.
"A Jew and an Arab can be arrested for the same crime but do not receive the same treatment," he said. "If we are talking about discrimination, we'll see that Jews are far better off than Arabs."