Israel ex-spy warns against "messianic" war on Iran (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/28/12 2:58pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - A former Israeli spymaster has branded the country´s
leaders as "messianic" and unfit to tackle the Iranian nuclear
program, in the strongest criticism from a security veteran of
threats to launch a pre-emptive war.
Other retired officials have also criticized Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and his defence minister, but the censure from Yuval
Diskin, who stepped down as head of the Shin Bet domestic
intelligence service last year, was especially harsh.
He was also unusual in using the language of religious fervor that
Israelis associate with their Islamist foes.
"I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defence minister,"
Diskin said in the remarks broadcast by Israeli media on Saturday. "I
really don´t have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of
Government officials rebuked Diskin and questioned his motives,
implying that he had his eye on a political career or was settling
scores after Netanyahu denied him a promotion.
The catastrophic terms with which Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud
Barak describe the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran have stirred
concern in Israel and abroad of a possible strike against its uranium
Iran says the project is entirely peaceful and has promised wide-
ranging reprisals for any attack.
World powers, sharing Israeli suspicions that Iran has a covert bomb-
making plan, are trying to curb it through sanctions and
negotiations. Those talks resume in Baghdad on May 23, but Barak on
Thursday rated their chance of succeeding as low.
Although Israel has long threatened a pre-emptive strike if diplomacy
fails, some experts believe that could be a bluff to keep up pressure
on the Iranians, making it harder to interpret the swirl of comments
from the security establishment.
Commenting on Diskin´s remarks, Amos Harel of the liberal Haaretz
newspaper said the temperature was rising in anticipation of the
"Nothing has been determined in the Iranian story, and the spring is
about to boil over into another summer of tension," said Harel.
Diskin spoke days after Israel´s top military commander, Lieutenant-
General Benny Gantz, told Haaretz he viewed Iran as "very rational"
and unlikely to build a bomb, comments that apparently undermined the
case for a strike.
The former Shin Bet chief was specifically damning of Netanyahu and
Barak, who have often crafted strategy alone and whose rapport dates
back four decades to when they served together in a top-secret
"They´re creating a false impression about the Iranian issue," Diskin
told a private gathering on Friday, where the comments were
recorded. "They´re appealing to the stupid public, if you´ll pardon
me for the phrasing, and telling them that if Israel acts, there
won´t be an (Iranian) nuclear bomb."
Diskin said he was not necessarily opposed to an attack on Iran,
though he cited experts who argue this risked backfiring by
accelerating its nuclear program.
Netanyahu´s former Mossad foreign intelligence director, Meir Dagan,
last year also ridiculed the Israeli war option.
Diskin went a step further by saying that Netanyahu and Barak were
not up to the job of opening an unprecedented front with Iran and,
potentially, with its allies on Israel´s borders.
Netanyahu is a second-term premier with solid public approval ratings
and a broad conservative coalition. Barak, a former prime minister,
is Israel´s most decorated soldier. But they are both technically
subject to security vetting by the Shin Bet, which added punch to
their panning at Diskin´s hands.
"I have seen them up close," he said. "They are not messiahs, the two
of them, and they are not people who I personally, at least, trust to
be able to lead Israel into an event on such a scale, and to
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed Diskin´s alarm as
irresponsible "speculation," telling Israel´s Channel Two TV that
such big decisions would be made at cabinet level rather than by the
prime minister and defence minister exclusively.
Lieberman said Diskin, who was considered as a potential Dagan
successor but was passed over, might be angry. One Barak confidant
sarcastically wished Diskin "welcome to political life," implying he
was angling for a slot in an opposition party ahead of an Israeli
national election scheduled for next year. (Editing by Matthew
Tostevin) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/28/12)
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