Ex-Shin Bet Head: Netanyahu Is an Unreliable Leader 'Possessed' by Iran

In interview to Yedioth Aharonoth, Yuval Diskin criticizes PM and Defense Minister Barak, describing highly-sensitive security meetings over alcohol and cigars; says there is a leadership crisis that 'from up close, looks even worse.'

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Former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin has leveled sharp criticism against Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak regarding their conduct and the way in which decisions are taken at the highest echelons of Israeli government.

In an interview conducted by Dror Moreh, director of the new documentary The Gatekeepers, published Friday morning in Yedioth Ahronoth, Diskin paints a picture of recklessness in the government's highly sensitive security discussions. Among other things, Diskin, who served as Shin Bet chief from 2005 - 2011, enumerates alcohol consumption, cigar smoking and the fact that Netanyahu is "possessed" by Iran.

"Netanyahu is scared, fickle and shirking responsibility," Diskin says in the interview. "There is a crisis of leadership here, a crisis of values and total contempt for the public. Maybe people will think I'm exaggerating, but I’m telling you: From close up it looks even worse."  

Diskin details Netanyahu and Barak's behavior during one of the meetings: "We are conducting an important discussion about Iran, in a closed forum that includes a group of ministers and the heads of security and their assistants, and then you have Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman, sitting and smoking cigars in front of everyone.

The defense minister gets up and walks over to a corner and pours himself a little drink from time to time. In the middle of such a sensitive, confidential meeting, he is standing with a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other, in front of the IDF's officers and intelligence officials. This is the scene. I'm telling you, a picture is worth a thousand words. In the midst of this deep and significant meeting, there is a feeling of total disrespect for the people there. I don't even know how to explain the feeling we experienced in that moment."

Diskin continues: "The feeling many of us had about Barak was that, whether under Olmert or Netanyahu, the question of who will claim credit for specific moves may lead to bizarre decisions or recommendations. I can't disclose more than that. But these recommendations left the participants in these closed-door discussions open-mouthed more than once. When I look at Netanyahu and Barak, I don't see an iota of leadership qualities in either of them. Rabin, Peres, Sharon and Olmert knew how to put the national interest before everything else. I didn't feel this way with Netanyahu or Barak. I don't think others did either. "

The former Shin Bet head claims that the prime minister's attitude towards the Iran issue is tainted by his determination to secure his place in the pages of history. "I have a very deep feeling that when it comes to Iran, Netanyahu is possessed by Menachem Begin, who attacked Iraq's nuclear reactor, and by Olmert, who many claim is responsible for the attack on Syria's reactor. Bibi wants to go down in history as the person who did something on this size a scale. I have heard him belittle what his predecessors have done and assert that his mission on Iran is on a much grander scale."

The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement to Yedioth Ahronoth that "Statements made by Diskin – who until a year and a half ago wanted to head the Mossad under Prime Minister Netanyahu - are unfounded. He is raising them now for political reasons, due to his own frustration over not being appointed. The Defense Minister also responded: Diskin's comments are baseless, recycled and shocking, in both content and timing. There is no kernel of truth in  Diskin's statements, there are no flaws in the decision-making process on issues concerning Iran."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak celebrating Barak's 70th birthday, September 2, 2012.Credit: Defense Ministry

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