Ex-security chiefs cast doubt on Iran strategy

By Ben Hartman, May 3, 2012

Comments about Iran made by former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin last Friday have shaken up the Israeli political establishment.

In recent months, a number of security officials have expressed doubts in the ability of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak to lead Israel in any potential military showdown with Iran.

Mr Diskin said he had no trust in them, calling them "the messiahs from Akirov and Caesaria", a reference to their upmarket homes.

Mr Diskin also said the public was being offered a "mirage" that "if the state of Israel acts against Iran, they [Iran] won't have a nuclear weapon".

In fact, he said, "an attack will only encourage and increase the speed with which they work towards developing a nuclear weapon."

Critics have said that Mr Diskin is looking to build a political career by lashing out at the country's leadership. It has also been said that he was angry at having been offered the post of head of the Mossad, only to be told by Mr Netanyahu that the job had instead been given to Tamir Pardo.

But Mr Diskin, whose term as Shin Bet chief ended in May 2011, was backed by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has made a string of comments critical of the government's handling of the Iran issue.

Last May, he called the idea of an attack on Iran "the stupidest thing I have ever heard".

During an interview in March on 60 Minutes in the US, Mr Dagan, head of the Mossad from 2002 to 2011, cast doubt on Israel's ability to take out Iran's nuclear programme.

Last week, the IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also went on record over Iran, saying that while a nuclear weapon could in theory pose an existential threat to Israel, he believed that "the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people."

Major-General (res) Nathan Sharony, chairman of the non-governmental Council for Peace and Security, said: "People like Diskin and Dagan can no longer influence the system from within, so they do so through the media."

Mr Sharony noted: "If they [Diskin and Dagan] had wanted to go into politics they would have stayed quiet and they would have been greeted with open arms by any party. But they are worried, so they said what they had to say."

At the Jerusalem Post conference in New York this week, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to back the men.

He said: "We have to ask - what has happened that all the leaders of Israel's security services suddenly think in the same way? Until they expressed their opinion in public they were brave and admired fighters - and suddenly they are enemies of Israel, suddenly they don't care about Israel's security?"

    Last updated: 2:02pm, May 3 2012