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Netanyahu called an opportunist by ex-security chief

  • Article by: JODI RUDOREN
  • New York Times
  • January 4, 2013 - 7:55 PM

JERUSALEM - In a harsh interview published on Friday, less than three weeks before Israel's national elections, a former head of the internal security service accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of placing his "personal, opportunistic and current interests" over those of the state when making decisions regarding Iran's nuclear program, the Palestinian conflict and other matters.

Yuval Diskin, who resigned 18 months ago as head of the security service, known as the Shin Bet, said other prime ministers he had worked with -- both conservative and liberal -- "came from this place in which the interests of the state stand above all else," in contrast to Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak.

Diskin made headlines last spring with public comments accusing the two men of "messianic" leadership and of "misleading the public" regarding the likely effectiveness of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. In the interview published on Friday, he expanded on the critique.

"When I look at Netanyahu, I don't see a shred of personal example as a leader in him," Diskin said in the interview in Yediot Aharonot, Israel's leading newspaper. "There is a leadership crisis. It's a crisis of value, it is total disregard for the public. People may think that I see this in an overly extreme manner. I am telling you that from up close, things look even worse."

Regarding the Palestinians, Diskin said Netanyahu's 2009 speech calling for "two states for two peoples" amounted to empty words that were "meant to sound good to the international community."

The prime minister's office called Diskin's accusations "groundless" and "motivated by his personal frustration" that Netanyahu did not choose him to head the Mossad, Israel's international intelligence agency. The statement said the critique was being "recycled for political reasons."

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