Former Shin Bet chief slams ‘messianic’ PM, Barak

Diskin says leaders lying about effectiveness of strike on Iran; sources close to defense minister decry criticism as political

Yuval Diskin 311 (photo credit: Sivan Faraj )
Yuval Diskin 311
(photo credit: Sivan Faraj )
Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday, saying they are guided by “messianic” impulses and lying about the projected effectiveness of an Israeli strike on Iran.
“There’s a false image being presented to public and that’s what bothers me,” Diskin said, speaking to the small Majdi Forum in Kfar Saba.
“They [Netanyahu and Barak] are giving the sense that if Israel doesn’t act, Iran will have nuclear weapons. This part of the sentence apparently has an element of truth. But in the second part of the sentence, they turn to the – sorry for the expression – the ‘stupid public’ or the layman public... and tell them if Israel acts, there won’t be [an Iranian] nuclear program. And that’s the incorrect part of the sentence,” Diskin said.
He cited “many experts” as saying that an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites would result in a speeding up of the Iranian program.
“What the Iranians prefer to do today slowly and quietly, they will do... quickly and in much less time [after a strike],” he said.
Diskin became the second major former defense figure to publicly question the necessity of an Israeli military strike, joining former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who described such a proposal at this time as a reckless and foolish idea.
But the ex-domestic intelligence chief went a step further than Dagan on Friday, saying, “My main problem on this issue is that I don’t have faith in the current leadership of the State of Israel that has to lead us to an event as big as a war with Iran or a regional war. I might be saying very difficult things. I don’t believe in the prime minister or the defense minister. I really don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings.”
Diskin proceeded to pull out a sheet of paper that contained a biblical quote from the Prophet Zachariah. The former Shin Bet chief read out the text, a description of the characteristics of a messiah.
Looking up from the paper, Diskin asked the audience, “Is this how you see our two ‘messiahs?’ One from [the] Akirov [Towers luxury residential building in Tel Aviv, where Barak lives]... and one from... Caesarea [where Netanyahu has a home], are these really messiahs?” “I’m telling you, I’ve seen them from up close, and they’re not messiahs. And they are people who I personally do not trust to lead Israel into an event of this size, and then to extract [Israel] from it,” he added.
Toward the end of his comments, Diskin said he did not believe that an attack on Iran was by definition an “illegitimate decision,” adding, “I’m just very concerned that these are not the people I would like to be holding the steering wheel when setting out on this kind of maneuver.”
Diskin became the head of the Shin Bet in 2005. In 2009, Netanyahu asked for his term to be extended. He resigned in 2011, and was replaced by Yoram Cohen.
Diskin also blamed the Netanyahu government for the stalled peace process with the Palestinian Authority.
“Leave aside all the stories they’re selling to us in the media, that we want to talk but Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas], he doesn’t. I’m telling you, we’re not talking to the Palestinians because this government does not want to talk to the Palestinians, and I was there until a year ago and I know what’s going on in this field from up close.”
Diskin accused the government of having “no interest in solving anything with the Palestinians. This government knows that if it makes the smallest step in this direction, than the current power base and strong coalition will fall apart. It’s very simple.”
He added that he was not defending the Palestinians, saying that Abbas “has made mistakes, but that’s not relevant now.”
“We as a people have an interest in peace; the government does not,” Diskin continued.
Earlier, he said the concept of reaching a complete resolution of the conflict was a utopian and unrealistic idea, and proposed reaching a two-state solution within the confines of the current situation.
Political leaders slammed Diskin for his comments.
MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) implied that Diskin’s comments were politically motivated, as they were conveniently made when an election was approaching.
“If these are really his opinions about the prime minister and defense minister, we would expect the Shin Bet chief to state them – and to act upon them – in real time, and not to wait for an election year,” Shama-Hacohen said.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) said that the former domestic intelligence chief’s statements were “crude and inappropriate,” adding that “if these are his opinions, he should have stated them in the appropriate forums while he was in office.”
“I think that Diskin was wrong to say what he did, and that when he considers what he said, he will realize that he was wrong,” Vice Premier Silvan Shalom (Likud) said on Friday.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) called Diskin’s comments “inappropriate,” adding that they could damage the country’s standing.
Neither Barak nor Netanyahu has commented on Diskin’s remarks, though sources close to the defense minister said sarcastically on Saturday, “We welcome his entrance into politics.”
The sources said Diskin’s attack was politically motivated, and that it was “embarrassing and saddening to see the weakness, judgement, irresponsibility and low language that Diskin, who served the public for years, was dragged into.”
Continuing their counterattack, the sources said Diskin was acting in a petty, inappropriate manner, and was driven by “personal frustration.”
“He is harming the legacy of Shin Bet heads... and the functioning norms and values of the organization,” they added.
An official noted that the Shin Bet is a peripheral player vis-a-vis Iran, and also said that Diskin had worked with both Barak and Netanyahu, and had asked for his term to be extended as the head of the Shin Bet.
If Diskin believed that Barak and Netanyahu were so untrustworthy, why did he want to work with them? the official asked.
With respect to his comments about the “stupid public,” the official said, “we should give the public more credit.”
Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.