Israel’s former spy chief blasts PM ahead of poll

Israel’s former spy chief blasts PM ahead of poll

Israel’s former spy chief blasts PM ahead of poll

Israel’s former intel chief Diskin blames PM Netanyahu (L) and Defense Minister Barak (R) of acting irresponsibly about Iran’s nuclear program and accuses them of prioritizing personal concerns over national ones. EPA photo

An Israeli ex-intelligence chief sought to sway Israelis against Benjamin Netanyahu in upcoming elections, saying in an interview published Jan. 4 that the prime minister has mismanaged Israel’s response to Iran’s nuclear program and missed opportunities to make inroads on a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The interview with Yuval Diskin was an unusually strong and overt assault on a prime minister by a figure from the security establishment, coming less than three weeks before the Jan. 22 election, in which polls predict Netanyahu will be re-elected.

Diskin, who ran Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency from 2005 to 2011, has been a vocal critic of Netanyahu. But his front-page interview with daily Yediot Ahronot included his sharpest comments yet.

‘PM acted illegally to attack Iran’


Yuval Diskin, AP photo

He accused Netanyahu of acting illegally by ordering the security apparatus to prepare for an attack on Iran before gaining prior approval by the Cabinet of ministers. Netanyahu’s office in a text-messaged statement called Diskin’s comments “baseless” and accused him of personal frustration over not being selected to head the prestigious Mossad spy agency. Diskin said that in 2010 Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to convince him, the army chief and the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency to prepare the security apparatus for an attack on Iran before gaining approval from the necessary government forums, a move Diskin called “illegal.” Diskin also described attending a meeting with Netanyahu, Barak and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in which they discussed the Iranian nuclear threat over cigars and liquor. He called the atmosphere “bizarre,” saying leaders discussing such a serious subject with Israeli security officials should show more gravity.

Diskin said Netanyahu acted irresponsibly regarding Iran’s nuclear program and accused him of prioritizing personal concerns over national interests. “Unfortunately, my feeling, and many others in the defense establishment share it, is that in the case of Netanyahu and Barak, the personal, opportunistic interests came first,” Diskin was reported as saying by Israeli ynet news agency. On the Palestinian issue, Diskin criticized Netanyahu’s lack of movement on peace talks and said there was a chance another Palestinian uprising could break out. “The role of the security forces is to create conditions so the political echelon will know what to do with them, and the quiet which was achieved in the last few years is an opportunity that the political echelon should not have missed,” Diskin said.

Diskin said, “Israel upgraded Hamas and humiliated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. We could have pursued various military moves that would have changed the picture, but Bibi [Netanyahu] and Barak are too weak.”