Over the weekend, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak of peddling the ‘false notion’ that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Speaking at a conference in central Israel on Friday, Diskin acknowledged the severity of Iran’s nuclear threat and the urgency of the matter, but criticised Netanyahu and Barak’s leadership. ‘My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership,’ Diskin said. ‘I don’t trust management that relies on messianic leadership’ he added.
Diskin’s comments were widely reported and stirred a heated debate. The former Shin Bet chief came under heavy criticism, with sources close to Barak and Netanyahu accusing him of being bitter after he was not chosen to head Mossad and that he now intends to enter the political arena. In addition, Diskin was criticised for failing to recognise the achievements of the government in garnering international support for actions against Iran’s nuclear programme.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who was speaking at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York on Sunday, criticised Diskin, saying that ‘In order to save Israel, [Diskin] should have resigned, instead of waiting five years and making his comments.’ Erdan also claimed that Diskin decided to speak out against Netanyahu because the person he wanted to succeed him as Shin Bet chief was not given the post. Israeli vice-premier and Likud party member Silvan Shalom also criticised Diskin, telling the Jerusalem Post yesterday that the former Shin Bet chief should not have spoken in public. “I think that Diskin was wrong to say what he did, and that when he considers what he said he will realise that he was wrong,” Shalom said.
However, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who were all speaking at the New York conference on Sunday, reinforced Diskin’s comments. Dagan, who has previously voiced his strong objection to a strike on Iran, backed Diskin and praised him as a highly capable and experienced person. Olmert said to Israel’s Channel 10 News that ‘There is no reason at this time not to talk about a military effort,’ he said, “but definitely not to initiate an Israeli military strike.’ Ashkenazi on the sidles of the conference also hinted at his support for Diskin saying, ‘I know Diskin, and he spoke what was on his heart out of genuine concern.’