Netanyahu criticised for Iran policy by ex-intelligence chief

Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 00:00

Former Israeli intelligence chief Yuval Diskin has issued a scathing attack on prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying his policies on Iran and the Palestinians were motivated by personal interests and ego.

Yesterday’s interview, on the front page of Israel’s top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper, came less than three weeks before the January 22nd election, which polls show will result in Mr Netanyahu forming the next government on a platform that includes preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Mr Diskin, who headed the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) between 2005 and 2011, accused Mr Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak of mishandling Israel’s response to the Iranian nuclear programme and of failing to achieve progress towards peace with the Palestinians.

‘Non-kosher means’

“We didn’t trust their motives . . . We had a feeling that they were trying to sneak something under the radar. My colleagues and I felt unsure of their ability to lead an effort on Iran. We feared that they would engage in stunts that could ensnare us as a country, for extraneous ends and using non-kosher means.”

Mr Netanyahu tried to convince security chiefs to approve what he called an “illegal” decision to attack Iran, without prior cabinet approval, Mr Diskin said.

He said Mr Netanyahu was “haunted” by the legacy of former prime ministers Menachem Begin and Ehud Olmert, who attacked the nuclear reactors in Iran and Syria (according to foreign media reports), and “wanted to go down in history as someone who did something of the same proportions”.

On the Palestinian track Mr Diskin accused Mr Netanyahu of strengthening Hamas and weakening and humiliating Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, instead of using the relative quiet of recent years to advance the diplomatic process.

Mr Netanyahu’s office described Mr Diskin’s claims as “baseless” and motivated by personal frustrations. Sources close to the prime minister said Mr Diskin held a grudge against Mr Netanyahu for passing him up for a job as head of the Mossad intelligence agency.

Shaul Mofaz, leader of the centrist Kadima party, said he could verify Mr Diskin’s version of events. “I hold him in the highest opinion and I believe him. I myself was witness to the obsession about mounting a military campaign against Iran.”

‘Reckless and irresponsible’

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni called Mr Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman – who resigned as foreign minister last month – reckless and irresponsible. “Yuval Diskin’s unnerving account of their decision-making process mandates that they be removed from leadership.”