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Former Israeli Spymaster Yuval Diskin Warns Against Attacking Iran
A former Israeli spymaster has branded the country's leaders unfit to tackle the Iranian nuclear program and "messianic" in the strongest criticism from a security veteran of threats to launch a pre-emptive war.
Other veterans have come out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
But the censure from Yuval Diskin, who retired as head of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service last year, was especially strong and unusual in using the language of religious fervor that Israelis associate with Islamist foes.
"I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defence minister," Diskin said in remarks broadcast by Israeli media on Saturday. "I really don't have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings."
The Prime Minister's Office and Defence Ministry had no immediate response to Diskin's remarks. But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rebuked Diskin and questioned his motives.
The catastrophic terms with which Netanyahu and Barak describe the prospect of a nuclear-armedIran have stirred concern in Israel and abroad of a possible strike against its uranium enrichment program. Iran says the project is entirely peaceful and has promised wide-ranging reprisals for any attack.
World powers, sharing Israeli suspicions Iran has a covert bomb-making plan, are trying to curb it through sanctions and negotiations. Those talks resume in Baghdad next month, but Barak on Thursday rated their chance of succeeding as low.
Although Israel has long threatened a pre-emptive strike if diplomacy fails, some experts believe that could be a bluff to keep up pressure on the Iranians, making it harder to interpret the swirl of comments from the security establishment.
In a commentary on Diskin's remarks, Amos Harel of the liberal newspaper Haaretz wrote that the temperature was rising ahead of the nuclear talks.
"Nothing has been determined in the Iranian story, and the spring is about to boil over into another summer of tension," he wrote.
Diskin spoke days after Israel's top military commander, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, told Haaretz he viewed Iran as "very rational" and unlikely to build a bomb, comments that apparently undermined the case for a strike.
The former Shin Bet chief was specifically damning of Netanyahu and Barak, who have often crafted strategy alone and whose rapport dates back four decades to when they served together in a top-secret commando unit.
"They're creating a false impression about the Iranian issue," Diskin told a private gathering on Friday, where the comments were recorded. "They're appealing to the stupid public, if you'll pardon me for the phrasing, and telling them that if Israel acts, there won't be an (Iranian) nuclear bomb."
Diskin said he was not necessarily opposed to an attack on Iran, though he cited experts who argue this risked backfiring by accelerating its nuclear program.
Netanyahu's former Mossad foreign intelligence director, Meir Dagan, last year also ridiculed the Israeli war option.
Diskin went a step further by saying that Netanyahu and Barak were not up to the job of opening an unprecedented front with Iran and, potentially, with its allies on Israel's borders.
Netanyahu is a second-term premier with solid public approval ratings and a broad conservative coalition. Barak, a former prime minister, is Israel's most decorated soldier.
"I have seen them up close," Diskin said. "They are not messiahs, the two of them, and they are not people who I personally, at least, trust to be able to lead Israel into an event on such a scale, and to extricate it."
Foreign Minister Lieberman said questions such as how and if to tackle Iran "are not made by the prime minister and defence minister. They are usually made in the security cabinet or cabinet."
Lieberman suggested to Israel's Channel Two television that Diskin might be angry at being passed over for the job as head of the Mossad.
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