Debating Diskin (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 05/01/12)
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In recent days, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director
Yuval Diskin has been remarkably and aggressively outspoken.
Comparing them to the biblical prophet Zachariah, he declared Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to be
guided by ďmessianicĒ impulses. He said the two were lying about the
projected effectiveness of an Israeli strike on Iran, arguing instead
that such an attack would only speed up Iranís push for nuclear
weapons. Noting ďI know whatís going on in this field up close,Ē
Diskin accused the present government of being insincere when
claiming to be interested in reaching a peace deal with the
Controversy continued on Sunday at The Jerusalem Post Conference in
New York City when former Mossad chief Meir Dagan sparred with
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan over Diskinís comments.
Understandably, Diskinís criticism Ė essentially a reiteration of a
line taken publicly by Dagan after he stepped down as head of the
Mossad last summer Ė has shaken up the political establishment.
Two seasoned military commanders and counterterrorism experts with
impeccable credentials, privy to Israelís most guarded secrets, have
taken upon themselves to fight the predominant narrative put forward
by the government vis-ŗ-vis Iran and the Palestinians.
Both Dagan and Diskin, like any other serious leader interested in
having an impact, are political animals. They understand the impact
of their words. But it would be disingenuous to blame these two of
acting solely in the name of narrow interests considering that during
the long years in which they held their respective official
positions, Diskin and Dagan remained out of the limelight and devoted
themselves exclusively to defending their country.
With their long years of service behind them, the two apparently feel
morally impelled to speak out against what they perceive to be
Unfortunately, instead of addressing the substance of Diskinís and
Daganís legitimate criticisms, the prime minister and the defense
minister have attempted to rebuff them with personal jabs. Diskin is
said to be motivated by bitterness for being passed over for the
position he wanted, the head of the Mossad. Diskin and Dagan have
been attacked by sources close to the prime minister for
BUT PERHAPS the most distasteful and undemocratic response to
Diskinís and Daganís outspokenness has been a legislative initiative
that, if passed, would severely restrict the open debate and
criticism that characterizes Israeli political discourse.
Dubbed the ďDagan Law,Ē the legislative initiative would prevent
former security officials from making public comments on matters
related to their field of expertise without authorization from the
Defense Ministry. First drafted last year, the bill has garnered new
interest in the aftermath of Diskinís comments. MKs such as Miri
Regev (Kadima), who drafted the original bill, and Danny Danon
(Likud), among others, are pushing to get the Dagan Law passed. They
claim to be out to defend Israel from the potential danger caused by
irresponsible comments made by the likes of Dagan and Diskin.
But in actuality, stifling the free exchange of ideas and criticism
among those most qualified to express these ideas and criticism is
the real danger to Israelís security.
After all, it was precisely the lack of independent thinking in the
military establishment that created a collective misconception and
led to Israelís unpreparedness for the Yom Kippur War. Indeed, what
makes robustly democratic, open societies so much stronger than their
autocratic counterparts is their ability to exercise self-criticism,
learn from mistakes and choose leaders in light of conclusions
reached through open debate. If Dagan and Diskin, based on their deep
familiarity with our military capabilities and high-level decision-
making process, believe that it would be unwise for Israel to single-
handedly attack Iran or that not enough is being done to advance
peace with the Palestinians, not only should they have the right to
say so; they have a moral obligation.
If critics of Dagan and Diskin think the two have given away national
secrets, then they should call for them to be tried for espionage in
accordance with the law. And if they think Daganís and Diskinís
analyses are wrong, then they should explain why. But the attempt to
use legislation to silence men with many merits and priceless
experience is unfair, undemocratic and dangerous. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 05/01/12)
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