Why Are Ex-Security Officials Lining Up Against Netanyahu?

As the public digests ex-Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin's angry analysis of Israel’s leaders, Nahum Barnea reminds us that he's not alone in his opinion. Ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former national security advisor Uzi Arad have the same complaints. Why has the prime minister failed to earn a shred of respect from the people who have come to know him best?

al-monitor Yuval Diskin, Israel's domestic security chief, makes a public speech at a homeland-security conference in Tel Aviv November 1, 2010. Photo by REUTERS/Nir Elias.

Topics covered

israel, iran, benjamin netanyahu, arab

Sep 13, 2013

Former Shin Bet (Israel's internal-security service) chief Yuval Diskin is no doubt a bully: He is blatant, scathing, tongue-lashing and devoid of any political correctness. Had I been a Palestinian terrorist or a Jewish mosque burner, this is the last person on earth I would have wished to meet face to face in an inquiry room. His natural place is in the hunting fields of the Shin Bet, far away from the public's eye, far from the cameras and microphones. His manner is inappropriate and his choice of words unacceptable. There is only one thing to be said to his credit: He is telling the truth. It is an unsettling truth, a disturbing truth — but the truth nonetheless. Diskin has taken upon himself the role of the boy from The Emperor's New Clothes who cries out: "But the king is naked!"

And he is not the only one: Ex-Mossad (Israel's foreign intelligence service) chief Meir Dagan and former national security advisor Uzi Arad have said the same before. For a couple of days now, since Diskin's acerbic broadside on Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak was posted on the Web last Saturday [April 28, 2012], the Israeli public has been hearing that it is all personal, that Diskin is frustrated, that he was not given the job he desired, that his successor in office is not the nominee he would have chosen. However, the citizens of Israel should ask themselves why is it that the same story repeats itself with Netanyahu, of all premiers; how could it be that the three prominent figures who served in the most senior security positions under his government go public with such harsh criticism? Disappointment and frustration over nominations and promotions are nothing new and others who served under former premiers were not always happy with the decisions made. However, it is only Netanyahu who has ever managed to provoke, time and again, such caustic censure on the part of his subordinates.

The question, therefore, is not "why Diskin?," but rather "why Netanyahu?" Why is it that the prime minister, who is currently at the apex of popularity, who seems to enjoy widespread public esteem, has failed to earn even a shred of respect from the people who have come to know him best of all?

Diskin unleashed his attack at a Kfar Saba restaurant, in response to questions raised in a "Friday morning round-table" that regularly meets there, one of dozens or hundreds such forums that have emerged in recent years across the country. On the face of it, it may seem an impulsive outburst. However, the papers prepared by Diskin beforehand indicate that there was nothing accidental in what he said. His words thus deserve serious consideration and deliberation, which go beyond personal gossip.

Diskin maintains that an Israeli military operation against the Iranian nuclear program would not drive the threat away, but rather make things still worse as, following an attack on its nuclear facilities, Iran would be in a position to openly carry on, at an even faster pace, its nuclear armament project with the support of the entire Islamic world. While conceding that an Israeli decision to strike Iran's nuclear installations may be legitimate, Diskin says that he has no faith in Netanyahu and Barak and does not trust them to lead Israel through a confrontation on such a scale and carry it off successfully. "I have no confidence in them," Diskin states, "I do not have faith in a leadership whose judgment is based on messianic hunches."

What's more, Diskin doubts the ability of the two to make a decision. "A barking dog doesn't bite," he notes. "And I have been hearing too much barking in the State of Israel lately in this context."

Referring to the deadlock in the negotiations with the Palestinians, Diskin puts the responsibility squarely with Netanyahu, who Diskin charges is guided by coalitional and personal considerations. According to Diskin, It is Netanyahu rather than Abu Mazen who has no real interest in advancing the process. Such a statement, made by the ex-Shin Bet chief who was in charge of the Palestinian issue in his former capacity, pointing the finger at the Israeli prime minister is bound to reverberate far and wide. It will be seriously studied at the White House and in every prime minister's bureau across Europe.

Diskin is telling us the truth about the Iranian issue, and his claims regarding the Palestinian issue are no less real. To be sure, Abu Mazen has made his own mistakes. However, it is Netanyahu's coalitional — that is, political survivability — considerations under which the notion of "two states for two peoples" has been buried. And it is quite doubtful whether the situation will change under the new coalition to be set up following the upcoming elections.

Diskin is also telling the truth about the deterioration of relations between Arabs and Jews inside Israel. It is a tinderbox that could explode at any minute, but no Israeli government has ever shown a genuine interest in dealing with this highly sensitive issue. Certainly not the present government, some of whose members count on the conflict between Jews and Arabs to go on forever, never to be resolved. "The government has no interest in holding a debate on the issue or in making decisions. At the most, it puts out fires," Diskin says. Unfortunately, he is right.

Diskin sneers at the self-indulgent lifestyles of Netanyahu and Barak — the one, the messiah from Gaza Street (Netanyahu's private apartmen in Jerusalem) and Caesarea (where Netanyahu owns a villa) and the other, the messiah from the Akirov Tower (where Barak lived until recently) and the Assuta project (where he has moved; both in Tel Aviv). It is not by chance that Diskin came to the Friday meeting equipped with an apt citation from the Bible's Book of Zechariah referring to the arrival of the Messiah at the end of days, riding on a donkey, as tradition has it: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass" [Zechariah Chapter 9, 9, King James Version translation].

Well, neither are "just," and no "salvation" do they carry with them; far from being "lowly" they both are; but "riding upon an ass," surely.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Nahum Barnea