´Diskin´s remarks irresponsible, stem from personal frustration´ (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana, Mati Tuchfeld, Nitzi Yakov, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff 04/29/12)
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Following ex-Israel Security Agency Chief Yuval Diskin´s remarks that
Netanyahu, Barak unfit to confront Iranian nuclear threat, PMO says
Diskin was lashing out because he was not chosen to be Mossad chief
MKs from Likud, Independence slam Diskin after he says he has "no
faith" in country´s leadership.
Former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin´s remarks
over the weekend that the prime minister and defense minister
are "unfit" to tackle the Iranian nuclear program were "irresponsible
and stemmed from personal frustration," a senior official from the
Prime Minister´s Office said on Saturday.
On Friday, the former spymaster accused the country´s two top
political leaders of being "messianic" and exaggerating the
effectiveness of a possible military attack on Iran, in a striking
indication of Israel´s turmoil over how to deal with the Iranian
His remarks were also the strongest criticism from a security veteran
of threats to launch a pre-emptive war on Iran, and come after Israel
Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz also seemed to
disagree with the country´s leadership on the likelihood that Iran
will pursue a nuclear weapon. Gantz told The Associated Press last
week that Iran is seeking to develop its "military nuclear
capability," but that the Islamic Republic was "rational" and would
ultimately bow to international pressure and decide against building
a weapon. The key to that pressure, he said, were sanctions and the
threat of a military strike.
"They´re creating a false impression about the Iranian issue," Diskin
told the Majdi Forum in Kfar Saba on Friday, where the comments were
recorded and then uploaded onto YouTube. "They´re appealing to the
idiotic public, if you´ll pardon me for the phrasing, and telling
them that if Israel acts, there won´t be an (Iranian) nuclear bomb."
He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud
Barak who have been warning of an Israeli military attack on Iran
have their judgment clouded by "messianic feelings" and should not be
trusted to lead policy on Iran. Diskin, who headed the Shin Bet until
last year, said a strike might actually accelerate the Iranian
program and give it the legitimacy it does not currently have.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Israel, like
the West, believes that Tehran is developing weapons technology, but
there is intense debate over whether international economic sanctions
accompanying the current round of negotiations might prevent Iran
from developing a bomb, or whether at some point a military strike
should be launched.
Cabinet Secretary Zvika Hauser, responding to Diskin´s comments, said
Sunday that the former spymaster´s comments "harmed Israel´s efforts
to form a coalition against Iran."
In Israel, security figures carry clout well into retirement.
Although they frequently pursue political careers, Diskin had been
seen as relatively apolitical, perhaps lending his words even greater
"I´m asking you, do you really see these two as our messiahs?,"
Diskin asked the audience at the forum. "One from the Akirov towers
and from the Assuta project [two luxurious residential complexes in
Tel Aviv], and the other from Gaza Street and Caesaria [the two
locations of Netanyahu´s private homes] - are they really messiahs?"
"I don´t have faith in the current leadership of Israel to lead us to
an event of this magnitude, of war with Iran," Diskin said. "I do not
believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic
feelings," he continued. "I have seen them up close. They are not
messiahs, these two, and they are not the people that I personally
trust to lead Israel into such an event."
Diskin said it was possible that "one of the results of an Israel
attack on Iran could be a dramatic acceleration of the Iran
program. ... They will have legitimacy to do it more quickly and in a
shorter time frame."
Diskin also blamed the current leadership for not doing enough to
advance peace talks with the Palestinians. "Forget all of the stories
that they try to sell us in the media, stories saying, ´We want to
talk with the Palestinians but [Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud] Abbas doesn´t.´ The prime minister knows that if takes even
one small step in this direction, his government and strong coalition
will fall apart. It´s very simple."
In response to Diskin´s comments, the PMO said, "Diskin calls the
Israeli public stupid, but citizens of Israel are much more clever
than he thinks."
"Why did Diskin extend his leadership of the ISA by a year under
Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu? Why did he want to be head of
the Mossad under Prime Minister Netanyahu? His words are
irresponsible and motivated by his personal frustration; personal
frustration from his not being elected head of the Mossad and from
the prime minister not choosing [Diskin´s] preferred successor as a
candidate to replace him as head of the ISA," the PMO official said.
Barak´s office also slammed Diskin, accusing him of "acting in a
petty and irresponsible manner based on personal frustration" and
of "damaging the tradition of generations of Shin Bet leaders and the
The defense minister´s office sarcastically congratulated Diskin "for
his entry into political life," saying, "It is embarrassing and sad
to see weak judgment and irresponsibility and the use of poor
language dragging down a man who served the public for years."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed Diskin´s comments
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.
"Diskin was an excellent leader of the ISA, but if you do not trust
the prime minister and not the defense minister, you should have
resigned and not waited for the end of your term," he said.
Lieberman said Diskin, who was considered as a potential successor to
former Mossad head Meir Dagan but was passed over, might be angry at
not being appointed to head Israel´s vaunted foreign intelligence
Diskin´s remarks also provoked critical reactions from Likud and
Independence party ministers.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Diskin´s criticism of
Netanyahu and Barak was undemocratic, Army Radio reported Sunday. "It
is implausible that heads of the security establishment will speak
out against the political echelon," which makes the decisions
Steinitz said, adding that Diskin´s remarks damage the joint efforts
of the Israeli government and foreign governments to stop Iran´s
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon (Independence)
said "Diskin´s callowness and lewdness reflect on the man himself,"
and questioned why the former ISA head had not resigned from his
position earlier. Simhon added, "Diskin failed with his defective
judgment, due to which [former Hamas captive] Gilad Schalit rotted
for years in prison and Israel had to pay a high price for his
release. He who did not know how to advise the government on the
release of hostages should not glorify his ability to advise the
people of Israel on the existential issue of a nuclear Iran."
Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, also of Independence, echoed other
political leaders, saying Diskin´s comments were "irresponsible."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) criticized
Diskin´s "rude and inappropriate" behavior, and added that "if these
are his opinions, he should have expressed them in the appropriate
forums when he was still ISA head," while Culture and Sports Minister
Limor Livnat (Likud) said that, "The timing and manner in which
Diskin chose to attack the prime minister raise concern that he is
motivated by irrelevant and extraneous issues, in a manner that is
unbecoming of his former standing and role."
Likud MK Carmel Shama Hacohen, echoed his colleagues´ remarks,
saying, "We would expect that if these are the former ISA chief´s
true opinions of the prime minister and defense minister, that he
would say and do something in real time and not wait for an election
year to remind people that the current leadership is unfit and is a
danger to the country´s security."
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Diskin erred when he made his
remarks. "There can be a dispute on attacking Iran, but these things
should be said in a discreet and orderly manner," he said.
Shalom noted that decision makers do not have a unified position on
an Iran attack, and that even though the prime minister and defense
minister carry a great deal of clout, they cannot make the decision
to attack Iran on their own.
In contrast to the Likud´s line, Meretz MK Ilan Gilon said
that, "Diskin is not the only one who is having trouble sleeping at
night. Unlike the nonsensical and empty declarations that Netanyahu
and Barak are trying to sell us, the real threat to us is not coming
from the Palestinians or Iran, but from the incompetence of Israel´s
faulty leadership and the poor judgment it displays."
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz told Army Radio on Sunday that Diskin´s
comments "came from a place of deep concern. The heavy criticism
against him indicates that someone is afraid to confront the things
he speaks of." Diskin´s remarks should be treated seriously, Mofaz
Kadima MK Israel Hasson, a former deputy head of Shin Bet, told
Israel Radio that the trust between the defense establishment and the
prime minister should not be broken. He said Netanyahu should be
concerned over comments made by heads of security organizations who
have finished their terms.
Diskin meanwhile said he would not retract his comments and that he
was aware his remarks were being recorded on Friday, Israel Radio
He told confidants that he will choose the time and place to react to
the criticism of his remarks.
Israeli security officials have taken issue with the political
leadership on several issues: whether sanctions on Iran will make a
strike unnecessary, whether a strike will be militarily effective,
and whether Israel should strike unilaterally if it cannot gain
One of the first criticisms voiced by a security figure came last
summer from Israel´s recently retired spy chief, Meir Dagan. He
called a strike against Iran´s nuclear program "stupid." Dagan said
an effective attack on Iran would be difficult because Iranian
nuclear facilities are scattered and mobile, and warned it could
Other senior figures with security backgrounds have questioned
whether Israel should act alone, as Netanyahu insists the country has
a right to do.
Last month, Shaul Mofaz a former military chief and defense
minister who has since been elected head of the opposition Kadima
Party said the threats of an imminent military strike are actually
weakening Israel. Mofaz said Israel "is not a ghetto" and that
despite its military might it must fully coordinate with the U.S. on
any plan to strike Iran.
Dan Halutz, who led the military from 2005 to 2007, also criticized
Netanyahu last month for invoking Holocaust imagery in describing the
threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. "We are not kings of the
world," Halutz said. "We should remember who we are."
A recent poll suggested the public agrees. The survey, conducted by
the Israeli Dahaf agency for the University of Maryland, said 81
percent of Israelis oppose a solo attack on Iran. At the same time,
it said two-thirds of Israelis would support military action if
coordinated with Washington. The poll, released last week, questioned
500 Israelis and had a margin of error of 4.3%.
In a recent report, the U.N. nuclear agency found Iran continues to
enrich uranium a key step toward developing a bomb. Although few in
Israel would dispute that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential
threat, debate has revolved around the cost-benefit analysis of an
On the cost side is the possible retaliation, in the form of Iranian
missiles as well as rocket attacks by Iranian proxies Hezbollah and
Hamas on its northern and southern borders. Especially daunting is
the prospect of sustained missile strikes on Tel Aviv, a bustling
business and entertainment capital whose populous is psychologically
ill-prepared for a homefront war.
An attack on Iran also would likely cause oil prices to skyrocket at
a time when the global economy is already struggling risking a new
recession for which Israel would absorb much if not most of the
blame. Some also fear that Iran might attack American targets in
response to any Israeli strike a scenario that could directly
influence the outcome of this fall´s U.S. presidential election.
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