Outgoing Shin Bet Chief Calls Fear of Hamas-Fatah Deal 'Out of Proportion'

Diskin calls Hamas acceptance of deal 'a tactical move' made in the context of wider unrest in the Middle East region.

Outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said Wednesday that reactions to the reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have been blown out of proportion.

"There have been attempts at reconciliation for a long time, as has the blame game between Fatah and Hamas, with each side blaming the other for the failure of the deal," Diskin told reporters in Tel Aviv. He refused to answer questions pertaining to the severity of politicians' warnings regarding the deal.

diskin - Guy Raivitz - April 8 2011
Guy Raivitz

Hamas accepted the current deal with Fatah following years of rejection, Diskin said, adding that the group had taken a "tactical, not a strategic, move" in agreeing to Fatah's draft.

Diskin attributed Hamas' change of heart to concern in the wake of developments in the region - particularly the potential collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

The leaders of Hanas are trapped between their support of Assad and calls by Sunni clerics to overthrow the regime, Diskin clarified, adding that the Islamist movement is keen on improving its relations with Egypt and its new government.

The Fatah-Hamas deal is rife with clauses that may be difficult to implement, Diskin said, "In the years to come I expect to see a real reconciliation on the ground. For this to happen, there must be joint security mechanisms: Hamas representation in the West Bank, and Fatah representation in the Gaza Strip," he said.

The outgoing Shin Bet chief also dissented from Israeli proposals to freeze the transfer of tax money to the Palestinian Authority. "Overall, we have to give the Palestinian Authority money," he said.

"If we, the Americans and the West do not give money, there will be no Palestinian Authority - this a matter for strategic decision making," he added. "At the moment, as long as the Palestinian Authority remains in status quo, there is no reason to change our policies toward them or the security arrangements we have with them."

Diskin also said that he considers himself responsible for the failure to gather intelligence over the whereabouts of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been in Palestinian captivity since 2006.

"I do not share my responsibility with anyone else for the Shalit affair," he declared. "I did not manage to bring Gilad home and to facilitate his return. I see this as my obligation and as my responsibility. As the head of the Shin Bet, I am saddened."

"The Shin Bet took the reigns on this issue when nobody else wanted to," Diskin said. We set up a team that began working on the day of the kidnapping and we invested a sea of effort and resources in the matter. When push came to shove, we failed. Period. This is my responsibility."

Since Diskin took over as Shin Bet chief, more than 160 Israeli civilians were killed in terrorist attacks – an issue which he also referred to as a failure.

However, he said, the Shin Bet and other security forces have managed to reduce terror to a level tolerable in this country. "I think that there is a feeling of safety among Israeli civilians most of the time in most areas of the country," he said. "We managed to significantly reduce the phenomenon of suicide bombing."