Yuval Diskin, Israelâ€™s former domestic intelligence chief, makes a public speech at a homeland security conference in Tel Aviv November 1, 2010.
Some of you may have seen Yuval Diskinâ€™s comments reported in newspapers across the world. The former head of Shin Bet – Israelâ€™s equivalent of the FBI – launched an unprecedented and astonishing attack on the integrity, honesty and judgement on Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his mini-me, the defence minister Ehud Barak, accusing them of â€œmisleading the public on the Iran issueâ€ and making decisions â€œbased on messianic feelingsâ€.
I never thought Iâ€™d find myself in such agreement with a former Israeli spymaster. In fact, Diskinâ€™s scathing comments form the basis of my column in todayâ€™s Guardian:
At a public meeting on Friday Diskin, former head of Shin Bet (Israelâ€™s MI5), described Netanyahu and Barak as â€œnot fit to hold the steering wheel of powerâ€. He went on: â€œI have observed them from up close â€¦ They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off â€¦ They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran wonâ€™t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading.
Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.â€
Diskin joins a long list of eminent members of the Israeli security establishment who have publicly voiced criticism of, and opposition to, their governmentâ€™s ultra-hawkish line on Iran. In fact, his astonishing attack on his former bosses came just 48 hours after the head of Israelâ€™s military, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, declared that the Iranian leadership had not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons, that it was unlikely to go this â€œextra mileâ€, and was composed of â€œvery rational peopleâ€. â€œDecisions must be made carefully out of historic responsibility but without hysteria,â€ added Gantz in a not-too-subtle dig at his political masters.
I go on to point out that opinion polls suggest the Israeli public isnâ€™t too keen on a pre-emptive military attack on Iran by the Jewish state and argue that â€œNetanyahu isnâ€™t Israelâ€:
â€œThose of us opposed to another catastrophic conflict in the Middle East should not allow his alarmist and messianic rhetoric to drown out the voices of Israelâ€™s doves: those critics of military action, who, ironically, are far more numerous and outspoken than the doves on Capitol Hill or in Westminster, and have far better credentials.â€
Thankfully, Bibi does seem to be more and more isolated on the Iranian â€œthreatâ€. But will that actually stop him from launching air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities at some stage in the coming months, as some commentators predict (and hope!)? Who knows? But on a related note, his predecessor and former Likud Party colleague Ehud Olmert told a conference of US Jews in New York on Sunday that the Israeli government shouldnâ€™t rush into unilateral military action against the Islamic Republic – and, according to the New York Times, was met with angry boos and heckles from his ultra-hawkish audience.
I guess even ex-Israeli prime ministers who have launched bloody wars against Arab nations arenâ€™t immune from the wrath of US Likudniks. But Olmert gave as good as he got:
â€œAs a concerned Israeli citizen who lives in the state of Israel with his family and all of his children and grandchildren,â€ he said, â€œI love very much the courage of those who live 10,000 miles away from the state of Israel and are ready that we will make every possible mistake that will cost lives of Israelis.â€