Former Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin defended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday, saying Abbas is against terrorism.

Diskin was responding to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's expressed hope that Abbas would resign. On Monday, Lieberman called Abbas "the greatest obstacle to peace."

Diskin, addressing a student conference in the south, retorted that Abbas "is against terrorism - not because he loves us, but he is against terrorism."

Since 2007, the PA has been making great efforts to fight terror, he added. "As someone who was involved for many years in what was happening there, since 1993, I don't remember a time when the Palestinians fought terrorism as seriously as they are doing today."

Diskin said he did not know if peace was possible, but that negotiations should take place.

The former Shin Bet chief said he believed Abbas, 76, was not in the best of health - "like many people his age" - but was staying in office because he realized "he could be the one to inscribe the founding of the Palestinian state on the pages of history."

Israel has temporarily blocked Palestinian efforts to obtain UN recognition of a state, but "efforts are continuing," he warned. "And if you ask me whether Israel can hold back the flood, in my opinion, that's an illusion."

Diskin criticized the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit, though not by name, saying merely, "It would be better for Israel not to make such deals. These deals are not good for Israel."

He also said he thought there was a link between the Arab Spring and the summer's social protests: "The people realized the power they have and the pressure they can exert on the political, social and economic system."

Diskin said he could not help but feel compassion upon seeing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sitting in a cage at his trial, adding that those who organized the trial included people who had "lived out of his hand for decades."

Commenting on the storming of Israel's embassy in Cairo, Diskin said, "It was perhaps surprising that it took so long" before it happened. "The embassy is very close to Tahrir Square. One of our fears ever since the riots began was that the rage of hundreds of thousands of people would be directed against the embassy. It was clear that the Egyptians could not protect the embassy."

Diskin said toppling the Syrian regime could take a long time, as the ruling Alawite minority will do everything it can to suppress the uprising. "A lot of blood will be spilled," he said.

"The question is why the enlightened Western world found it proper to intervene in Libya and not in Syria," he continued. He said he thought it was because of Syria's influence in Lebanon and Iraq.

Regarding Jordan, Diskin said the Hashemite Kingdom is sensitive to every comment Israelis make indicating that the solution to the Palestinian problem lies in Jordan. "It drives them crazy," he said. He said Israel should be careful to avoid a deterioration in relations with Amman.

As for Israeli Arabs, Diskin said, "They have a sense of inequality in Israel. And to a great extent, they are right."