Sources in the Prime Minister's Office unleashed biting criticism on former Shin Bet security agency chief Yuval Diskin, who said Wednesday that the failure of peace talks with the Palestinians is a greater threat to Israel than a nuclear Iran. A source close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Diskin "detached from reality."
Wednesday evening, at a conference in Tel Aviv marking a decade of the Geneva Initiative, Diskin said he feared Israel and the Palestinians may "pass the point of no return," if they do not reach an agreement in current negotiations. "The implications of the absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more existential than the Iranian nuclear issue," he said. "The amount of fumes in the air has reached such a level that a tiny spark can cause a huge fire. The situation is very tense, and can explode at any moment."
Diskin attacked Netanyahu over the prisoner release at the beginning of the negotiations, saying that it was a choice made to avoid freezing settlement construction: "I object in principle to the release of prisoners under extortion or threats. [That said,] I am of the opinion, painfully, that a peace agreement justifies even the release of prisoners, done correctly, and only in the final stages," he said. "Unfortunately, the cynical and nauseating political deal concocted to avoid freezing settlement construction was done at too early a stage in the negotiations and therefore angered many Israelis, and rightly so."
He added that "it does not seem as if the current government is trying to change the trend regarding the settlement enterprise."
Sources in Netanyahu's circle responded to the remarks, with one saying that "anyone who thinks the Palestinian threat is larger that the threat of a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran, which has made it its goal to destroy the State of Israel, is detached from reality and lacks any strategic perspective," adding that "Prime Minister Netanyahu will not be affected by recycled statements or by righteous preaching arising from the personal frustration of someone who wanted to be appointed head of the Mossad by Netanyahu and did not get the position."
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud-Beytenu) said that "members of the club of disgruntled has-beens, in which Olmert and Diskin are honorary members, are afraid their names have been forgotten, and on every stage, they attack the government [just] to make headlines."