Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin's claim that "resolving the Palestinian issue is more important than tackling the Iranian nuclear threat" is just absurd, even ridiculous. It is also dangerous as it can impede progress in the talks with the Palestinians and can compromise the efforts to stop Iran's nuclearization.
Perpetuating the conflict with the Palestinians does indeed entail risks on various levels, but only those who choose to ignore reality (in this case Diskin, probably knowingly) can sound the rhetoric of "Agreement Now." Even the Americans have come around to the realization that the Palestinians are still determined to pursue their rejectionist strategy and avoid any path that may require them to make compromises and concessions on core issues: the refugees, Jerusalem, the holy sites, and the recognition of Israel as the Jewish nation state.
Does Diskin really believe the Israeli public would buy his claim that it is the government -- perhaps exclusively so -- that has the secret ingredient that would make a deal possible? Energetic U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may have told reporters on Friday that we have never been closer to a deal, but he too knows that even if security issues were to be ironed out (a must if we were to discuss the other parts of a deal) a comprehensive deal is not in the offing. He also knows that at best, the current round of negotiations would culminate with a partial or interim deal. But even the chances of that prospect being realized are slim, in part because of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' rejectionism.
Statements such as the one made by Diskin, who until recently was a senior government official, serve the Palestinians in their efforts to deceive the world, and especially the U.S. Of course, aside from the Palestinian issue are many others whose perpetuation can pose a serious challenge for Israel's future, among them the shortcomings in our schools, income disparity, poverty, the low number of haredim and Arabs who take part in the Israeli economy and even the ramifications of assimilation and intermarriage in the Jewish Diaspora.
But the Iranian nuclear threat is unique. It is immediate and tangible, evident and obvious. Lacking a solution in the near future, it would continue to be an ever-turning sword. This sword requires us to take a look at the immediate and distant future and take the necessary steps, because our actions may have an adverse effect on our way of life and our set of priorities, on many levels. This includes the issues listed above: the Palestinians, education, the economy and so forth.
Diskin's comments and those made by his supporters essentially sanction Iran's nuclearization, all the while blurring the immediacy of its goals. The former Shin Bet head doesn't have to be an expert on strategy and international relations like Isser Harel and other Shin Bet chiefs. Harel served as the head of the Shin Bet and the Mossad simultaneously but he too had his share of mistakes -- the controversy surrounding the alleged activity of German missile scientists in Egypt comes to mind. Diskin, like others before him, is no Harel.
The Shin Bet is supposed to fight subversion and other threats to Israel's security. Among other things, it engages in counterintelligence and counterterrorism, protects senior officials and vets office holders before they get security clearance. On all of those matters, the Shin Bet has been superb; this was definitely the case under Diskin's watch. No one disagrees with that.
But his recent comments, made at a gathering marking the 10th anniversary of the Geneva initiative, probably prove that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the right call by not appointing him as Mossad chief. Israel's spy agency has an area of responsibility that is very different from Diskin's field of expertise. Rumor has it that Netanyahu's decision is what made Diskin carry out such erratic attacks on Netanyahu.
There is no specific code of conduct on how former public officials (including former prime ministers) should behave once they become ordinary citizens. You would think that those who have once been at the helm would know how to maintain an honorable posture once they end their service in government. But that could have been too much to expect.