In a front-page interview in the Yedioth Ahronoth weekend edition, former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "wavering and weak," and accused him of "putting his own ego before the good of the state."
"So why did you decide to talk now?" asked the reporter.
"Because it is election season now," replied Diskin.
There it is. The masks have come off and the true face has been revealed. There is no longer any kind of charade. This is not journalism, and neither is it a desire to expose the truth. In the interview (if you want to call it that), everything came out into the open: Elections are coming up and most of the public wants Netanyahu, despite Yedioth Ahronoth's mightiest efforts to sway the public against the incumbent prime minister.
Unfortunately, the migration of votes is taking place only within the respective political blocs. The right-wing bloc currently holds the majority, and it is only gaining ground as time goes by. Now Yedioth Ahronoth is acting like one of those soccer coaches who, at times of crisis, instruct their players to go for the jugular.
Diskin's argument was that Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, had poured their own personal considerations into the debate over security decisions. He said that they lacked leadership qualities, and that they did not set a personal example. He said that both men were given to decadence, unlike former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.
These allegations raise some serious questions. First of all, if what Diskin witnessed of Netanyahu and Barak was so appalling — and he claims that he witnessed this kind of behavior for years — why did he wait this long to announce it to the public? And when he did, it wasn't even his initiative. Is he so irresponsible that he was willing to leave Israel's security in the hands of two individuals who, according to him, could not be trusted? Doesn't someone who sees himself as a public servant, who apparently sees that the country is without proper leadership, feel a duty to warn the public?
What does all this say about Diskin's credibility?
Can we trust a person who kept silent as long as his career was in full swing, and only remembered to speak out once his career was over?
But that's not all. It is no secret that at the end of his term as the head of the ISA, Diskin wanted to serve, under both Netanyahu and Barak, as the head of the Mossad. Where was his civic duty then? If he was so appalled with their conduct when he was working with them as the head of the ISA, why did he want to serve under them in the Mossad?
What does this say about him? Can we believe a man who saw leaders displaying such terrible behavior and still wanted to work under them?
Doesn't the man who rolled his eyes while presenting himself as a servant of the nation owe us an explanation? Is there any explanation for the fact that it was only after Diskin didn't get the job he wanted that he suddenly realized how terrible Netanyahu's priorities were?
There are quite a few remarks in the interview that are simply laughable. Diskin relates how decadent Netanyahu and Barak were, as opposed to Olmert and Sharon. It is too bad that we live in a country where there are enough people who can testify to the opposite, and they happen to be individuals who didn't seek appointments from Netanyahu and Barak. There are enough journalists in Israel who visited Sharon's ranch and can tell you what a decadent meal really looks like. Diskin knows this full well.
Diskin described Sharon as someone who knew how to put the national good above his own. Come on. Is that the same Sharon about whom the phrase "the deeper the investigation, the deeper the withdrawal" was coined? (This phrase referred to Sharon’s alleged attempt to divert attention away from corruption investigations against him and his sons by pulling out of the Gaza Strip.) Is that the same Sharon who managed to bring his opponents over to his side during the 2005 Gaza withdrawal by declaring that "the fate of Netzarim [a settlement in Gaza] is just like the fate of Tel Aviv"?
Diskin dedicated a large portion of the interview to his vehement opposition to settlement construction and his disappointment over the stalled peace process. So many words, and not a single mention of the fact that Netanyahu's current government did something that no government, including the Left-led governments, had ever done: He declared a moratorium on settlement construction to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a way back to the negotiating table. The fact is that Abbas refused to re-enter talks. Only a week before the moratorium expired, Abbas proposed extending the freeze and resuming talks. But Diskin is under the false impression that only by halting settlement construction will Israel be able to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
Disking repeated Tzipi Livni's argument that Netanyahu's government made Hamas stronger. As though we were all born yesterday and have forgotten that Hamas rose to power in the Gaza Strip as a direct result of the 2005 disengagement. While the parties in the current coalition opposed the withdrawal, Yedioth Ahronoth supported it, and is now banking on the public's short memory.
Beyond that, there is an even more serious matter at hand: The question of building or not building in the settlements is a clearly political question. The defense establishment has only one task: to carry out the decisions made by politicians. That's how a democracy works. But Diskin (and in this he is certainly not alone), seems to be dreaming of a banana republic where generals know better than the public what is good for the public.
When discussing Hamas' growing strength, Diskin talked about the release of Hamas prisoners during the exchange deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in October 2011, and about the release of Sheik Ahmed Yassin after the failed attempt on Khaled Mashaal's life.
For Diskin, the Schalit prisoner exchange is an embarrassing point. As the head of the ISA, Diskin failed to supply the political echelon (which, in a democracy, oversees his agency, as difficult as this is for him to grasp) with any intelligence on the whereabouts of the captive soldier or his condition.
Diskin also elegantly skipped over the details of the Mashaal assassination attempt: Mossad operatives were held by the Jordanian authorities. Yassin was released to bring Israeli agents home. Would Diskin have preferred that the Mossad men were still held in Jordan? Isn't the head of the ISA supposed to understand the significance of such a decision? And if he does prefer to have left the Mossad operatives in the hands of an Arab country, why doesn't he come out and say so?
The interview also raises the question of why exactly Anat Kamm (who handed over classified military documents to a newspaper and was sentenced to four years in prison) and Uri Blau (the Haaretz reporter who received the documents) were so vigorously pursued by the law. Ostensibly, they did far less than Diskin did in this interview. He exposed secret meetings on Iran — possibly the most sensitive security issue there is. So much chatter on such a sensitive topic hasn't been seen in a long time. Anat Kamm was also motivated by ideology, so what is the difference? Is it because she was a lowly soldier and he was the head of the ISA? Does that mean that he is allowed?
In another part of the interview, Diskin voiced envy for the Arab Spring and the demonstrators in Egypt's Tahrir Square. Well, Diskin is no longer in the ISA and is no longer obligated to keep up to date with current affairs like the rise of radical Islam as a result of that enviable Arab Spring, or the massacre of Syrian civilians. One of my old bosses used to say: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Frankly, that statement is true for most of the Diskin interview.
Maybe we should examine things in view of one of Diskin's remarks: "Our internal corrosion is far worse than the Iranian bomb." The honorable Diskin and Arnon (Noni) Mozes (the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth) are invited to sit down with a cup of coffee and think about their own contribution to this internal corrosion.