Israel: Sharp Criticism of Israel's Leadership by Ex-Security Chief

A close up of the Israel Knesset (parliament) building in Jerusalem by zeevveez on flickr (CC-BY)

Yuval Diskin, the former chief of Israel's internal security agency, Shin Bet, caused a firestorm in Israel at the end of April, when he was recorded speaking against the Israeli leadership, specifically, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Diskin, who served as the head of Shin Bet until 2011, said to a group of local residents in the city of Kfar Sava on April 27, 2012: “I don't believe in either the prime minister or the defense minister. I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings.” Diskin added that: “Believe me, I have observed them from up close… They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off. These are not people who I would want to have holding the wheel in such an event.”

Referring to recent threats by Israel to take preemptive military action against Iran, Diskin said that Netanyahu and Barak are, “misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.” He has also stated that the current government has, “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.”

One of many security chiefs to voice concern

Diskin's public criticism makes him the fourth security chief to voice opposition to an attack on Iran or to question the leadership of the Prime Minister and Defense Minister. He joins former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, former head of the National Security Council Uzi Arad, and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who all retired in 2011 and have since gone on the record or spoken privately about their criticism of the current leadership.

The current security chiefs are believed to hold a similar position to the one held by their predecessors: all currently oppose a strike on Iran. IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, said last week that Iran hasn't yet decided to build a nuclear weapon, which puts him at odds with Netanyahu and Barak.

Accompanying the local media storm, Israelis online were quick to react to Diskin's comments (note, that the Hebrew-language blogosphere and twittersphere are dominated by the left).

Israeli journalist Amir Mizroch wrote in his blog:

In a country where security is held above everything, and security men – generals and spymasters – are held in the highest regard and are easily electable to high office, many Israelis could be influenced by Dagan and Diskin’s message that Bibi and Barak are not trustworthy.

Guy Alon Eliav, the CEO of a leading news portal in Israel wrote on Twitter:

מה שמטריד הוא לא דברי דיסקין אלא שלא מעט בכירים מסכימים איתו.
@GuyEliav: Diskin's words aren't what's disturbing – it's the fact that many senior officials agree with him

Journalist Tal Schneider also commented on Twitter:

מעניין אם כל הפדריישנס/איפאק ושאר הליגות יובילו קמפיין גם נגד דיסקין/דגן סיביאס סטייל בשל התבטאויות שלא נעים לשמוע נגד הממשלה הנוכחית
@talschneider: It will be interesting to see whether all the [Jewish] Federations/AIPAC and the rest of the Leagues will also start a campaign against Diskin and Dagan like they did with CBS [over the airing of a report critical of Israel] due to statements they don't want to hear about the current government.

Barak Rom wrote on Twitter:

כל עם צריך דיסקין משלו, כזה שיאשר מה שכולנו חששנו ממנו
@RomBarak: Every nation needs its own Diskin, someone who confirms all we've been fearing

The Israeli twittersphere, which finds a way to joke about everything, was sure to have a good laugh about the reaction of the Israeli leadership to Diskin's statements:

Israeli journalist Guy Benyovits tweeted:

מחר ב”ישראל היום”: ראש השב”כ לשעבר דיסקין הוא שמאלני, שיכור, ומקורות מדיניים חושפים שגם גמד
@Shaatuk: Tomorrow in “Yisrael Hayom” [fervently pro-Netanyahu paper funded by Sheldon Adelson]: Former Shin Bet Chief Diskin is a leftist, a drunk, and government officials have revealed that he's a midget too

Rubynet quipped:

נתניהו: דיסקין זרק עלי חול בארגז החול
@Rubynet: Netanyahu: Diskin threw sand at me in the sand box.

Commenting on the constant war-mongering coming from Israel's leadership, Elad Itzhakian wrote:

מה זה כל החדשות האלה על דיסקין? כדאי מאוד שיתחילו לדבר שוב על איראן כי מפלס הפחד שלי יורד ואני עלול חס וחלילה לפתח חשיבה עצמאית
@elad_itzhaki: What is all this news about Diskin? They better go back to talking about Iran very soon because my level of fear is dropping and I might, God forbid, develop some independent thinking.

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