Bibi, Ask Not What You Can Do for You

The recent painful, accusation-ridden interview with former Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin should have sent Netanyahu packing, but instead it made nary a ripple on the electoral sea.

Eyal Megged
Eyal Megged
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Eyal Megged
Eyal Megged

In another country, in a place that is normal, the in-depth interview with former Shin Bet security service director Yuval Diskin, published in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper last weekend, would have cost a sitting prime minister the election.

In a normal country, the prime minister would already have started packing. After being levied such harsh criticism from a figure who was so high-ranking, who worked so closely alongside him and witnessed the way the system operates at critical junctures, someone who is not running against him in the election and whose only interest is the future of the state, a prime minister wouldn't be able to dream of re-election.

I don't know what outrages me more – the depressing, despair-inducing content of the interview, in which Diskin describes Netanyahu's misjudgments and his egotistical, arrogant and weak leadership, or the fact that there is no chance it will be have an effect on the election. Is it the high-wire act that characterizes gamblers but is practiced by the leader of our country, or the fact that Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu won't lose even 10 seats as a result of these issues, a measly 10 seats that could ultimately tip the scales?

The interview with Diskin is particularly shocking (more shocking to me, unfortunately, than to the Israeli public at large) because it is authentic. Genuine pain and worry seep through. For the Prime Minister's Office to dismiss Diskin's accusations by saying he is frustrated after missing out on the appointment as head of the Mossad is both absurd and cowardly. This excuse conveys a panicked flight from introspection. It is just as stupid and foolish as the conspicuousness of the cigars and whiskey that Diskin says were enjoyed during sensitive discussions.

It's not that cigars and whiskey are themselves the problem. Winston Churchill, whose cigar seemed to permanently dangle from his lips, even when making the most fateful decisions, also defended the honor of spirits. When U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed surprise at the whiskey the British prime minister was imbibing during the critical hours of the invasion of Normandy, Churchill said the drink does more good than harm.

No, the part about Diskin's statements that worries, to say the least, is the misjudgment, the terrible decisions, on more critical matters. It's not just about Iran. It's primarily about the Palestinians.

Who else needs to give their opinion before the public is up in arms about Israel's neglect of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as a partner to a peace deal? Five Shin Bet heads aren't enough? Who else needs to warn us about the explosion lingering just on the horizon? Again, Diskin isn't a politician with his own agenda, criticizing without aim. He is a professional who sounds like he knows what he's talking about, someone who knows about the Palestinian issue, like his predecessors. And like those men who came before him, he holds basic views about Israel's ability to reach an agreement and how to go about doing so.

There is a crucial point that ought to – but isn't – keep us up at night. It should – but it isn't – spark a marked shift in voting patterns. This is the impression that, as Diskin emphasizes in the interview, Israel is being helmed by a group of aggressive, weak-willed leaders who are motivated not by thoughts of country but by their own personal interests.

I am reiterating these accusations out of a sense of sorrow. I believe with all my heart that Netanyahu does make a distinction between his own interests and those of the country. I just suspect that the evil spirit that has taken over his government has fuzzed the line between the best interests of the leaders and the country they lead. But maybe that's just what has made him a popular leader, someone people identify with, an unchallenged champion. Maybe it actually reflects the mentality of the voters, of most of the country. Maybe when Diskin is talking about dangerous characters, he is referring to the people who appear in the mirror when the nation, at last, takes a long look at itself.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks ahead of the 2013 elections, Dec. 25, 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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