The former head of Israel's internal security agency has described the country's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Ehud Barack as "opportunists" in a lengthy interview with Gatekeeper magazine. Ex-Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin expressed his feelings about the arrogant way that Netanyahu, Barack and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman deal with other Israeli officials.
Describing how the three senior politicians behaved during a panel discussion on Iran, Diskin said that he was painting a picture worth more than 1,000 words.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Lieberman were smoking cigars in front of everyone. The defence minister got up and went to the bar, where he poured himself a drink from one of the bottles," explained Diskin. "In the midst of this delicate and dramatic discussion, he stood there with his drink and cigar in hand, opposite senior Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officers and intelligence personnel. All those present witnessed the scene."
The three men showed "complete disregard for everyone present", alleges Diskin. "I can't even explain what we all felt at that moment. There was a minister in the room who suffers from respiratory problems. He has sat with them in numerous other panels, and I asked him, 'Doesn't it bother you?' He said, 'Yes, it actually bothers me a lot'; I continued, 'And you don't say anything about it?'. He replied, 'I did; they won't listen.'"
The ex-Shin Bet head pointed out that he has had the chance to work with the top political echelons since 1994. "I've seen all kinds of leaders – Rabin, Peres, Bibi [Netanyahu], Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Bibi again. When I consider this spectrum, I can say that in the moment of truth, Rabin, Peres, Sharon and Olmert would always prefer State interests over their own."
These four did not always make the right decision, but you knew where they were coming from, insisted Diskin. "Israel's interests trumped anything else. Unfortunately, my feeling, like the feeling of many others in the defence establishment, is that for Netanyahu and Barak personal, opportunistic interests come first."
This is something that Diskin finds amazing. "Defence Minister Barak isn't just some guy off the street; he's a former combat soldier, army officer, Special Forces chief and IDF chief of staff. He is the one who is supposed to know what setting an example is all about, what it means to be in command."