Israelis split on a possible strike on Iran
JERUSALEM - The former chief of Israel's domestic intelligence agency has described Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as men driven by "messianic feelings" and said he had "no faith" in them to lead a potential strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
The scathing comments by Yuval Diskin, who had kept a low profile since retiring last year, added to the sense of a divide between Israel's security establishment and its political leadership over the Iran issue. Earlier last week, the current military chief voiced confidence that sanctions and the threat of military action would deter Iran from building nuclear bombs, an analysis that contrasted with Netanyahu's and Barak's grimmer assessments.
Diskin, who headed the Shin Bet security agency for six years, was far harsher. Speaking at a community meeting on Friday, he said a pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites probably would accelerate, not end, Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"They are misleading the public on the Iran issue," Diskin said of the prime minister and the defense minister, according to an account in the daily newspaper Haaretz.
He added: "Believe me, I have observed them from up close. ... They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off. These are not people who I would want to have holding the wheel in such an event."
Diskin's comments echoed those made by Meir Dagan, the chief of Israel's Mossad spy agency until January 2011, who said last year that a strike on Iran would lead to "regional war" and encourage Iran to continue its nuclear program. At the time, Dagan told Israeli journalists that he feared his retirement, as well as that of Diskin and the former military chief, Gabi Ashkenazi, had removed voices that could "block any dangerous adventure" led by Netanyahu and Barak.
Diskin, who was described upon his retirement as a highly successful Shin Bet chief, had not spoken publicly of his reservations before Friday.
The offices of Netanyahu and Barak issued no responses on Saturday.