Delusions of Grandeur
A sudden lapse into insanity, or a true sense of dread and responsibility, it does not really matter what motivated ex- General Security chief Yuval Diskin to speak out so harshly against the highest echelons of Israeli decision makers. The interview, published over the weekend in Yediot Aharonot, is unparalleled both in content and context. Indeed, it is hard to imagine an interview that could be more timely, more painfully urgent, more challenging to conventional wisdom on all sides of the Israeli political spectrum.
While not entirely surprising, it is difficult to point at the reason why this document resonates so deeply. Perhaps it is the blatant criticism by an ex- General Security chief, a precedent in itself, or maybe it is Diskin’s professional ethos of ruthless, unsentimental pragmatism that gives such force to his worries about the current state of Israeli politics. Aggregated with other testimonials from first-hand witnesses such as ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, ex- Army chief Gabi Ashkenazi, and ex- National Security Council chief Uzi Arad, an extremely worrying picture of Israeli decision making begins to emerge, a picture that must worry all Israelis as they attempt to decide where to cast their vote.
Putting aside the graphic depiction of whiskey, cigars and white-hatted chefs, the main issue that should concern any Israeli voter, including ardent Netanyahu fans, is the precedence that “personal, opportunistic and current” interests take over national interests. Of course, as Diskin himself noted, politicians are above everything political creatures, and also Netanyahu’s predecessors played this game of balancing between the two sets of interests. Yet, with Rabin, Peres, Sharon and Olmert – leaders Diskin worked with in the past, the interests of the state stood above all.
With Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak, Diskin is convinced, this is not the case. In the case of Iran for example, Netanyahu is driven by the shadow of his predecessors, wanting to be remembered as the Prime Minister who bombed Iran, just like Begin is remembered as the one deciding to bomb the Iraqi nuclear plant. Regarding the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s two-state speech from 2009 was mainly aimed at pacifying the international community, as he himself is not ideologically built for real decisions. An erroneous policy of weakening the moderate Abu Mazen has resulted in endangering the existing security cooperation and has strengthened the Hamas.
If readers are seeking reassurance or grounds for optimism about where Israel is headed, they will not find it in Diskin’s words. What they will find is rare, welcome and almost unbearable clarity. As Israeli voters navigate through the Israeli political maze and contemplate their vote in two and a half weeks, this document must illuminate their path. Too many alarms are being sounded to be ignored.
I will end with a quote of Winston Churchill, a person greatly admired and often referred to by Netanyahu, on his successor in office Clement Attlee:
“An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street, and when the door was opened Attlee got out.”