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Media Watch | More Israeli, Jewish Voices Oppose Netanyahu on Iran

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

28 Apr 2012 22:55Comments

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YuvalDiskin.jpg[ in focus ] In a speech on Friday, Yuval Diskin, who retired as head of the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, last year, spoke out strongly against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the issue of Iran. Addressing the Majdi Forum in Kfar Saba, Diskin declared, "I have no faith in the prime minister, or in the defense minister. I really don't have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings." He continued, "They are creating a false impression about the Iranian issue. They're appealing to the stupid public, if you'll pardon me for the phrasing, and telling them that if Israel acts, there won't be an [Iranian] nuclear bomb."

Diskin went even further and said that Netanyahu and Barak are not up to the job of opening an unprecedented front with Iran and, potentially, with its allies on Israel's borders. "I have seen them up close. They are not messiahs, the two of them, and they are not people who I personally, at least, trust to be able to lead Israel into an event on such a scale, and to extricate it," he said. Neither Netanyahu nor Barak has responded to Diskin's comments, which were condemned by several high-ranking members of Netanyahu's coalition government.

In recent months, as Netanyahu and Barak's rhetoric concerning a possible military attack on Iran has grown more heated, many political leaders around the globe have warned Israel against such an action. In the United States alone, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the CIA David Petraeus, and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have variously expressed the views that Iran is not trying to make nuclear weapons, has not made the political decision to do so, and that attacking Iran would have catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and the world.

Perhaps the most significant voices raised in opposition to Netanyahu and Barak's view that the Islamic Republic poses an imminent existential threat to Israel have been those of other Israeli and Jewish leaders, among whom Diskin may now be counted. As noted here, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, chief of the Israel Defense Forces, publicly stated this week that Iran's leaders are "very rational" and that he believed they would not decide to develop nuclear weapons.

Last May, Meir Dagan, who led Israel's intelligence organization Mossad until late 2010, called the prospect of an Israel Air Force attack on Iran's nuclear facilities "the stupidest thing I have ever heard." In November, Ephraim Halevy, one of Dagan's predecessors as Mossad chief, said that Iran is still "far from posing an existential threat to Israel" and that "the growing Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] radicalization poses a bigger risk than [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad."

Netanyahu and more than a few of his ideological confrères, such as leading American neoconservative Norman Podhoretz, have compared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler, the Islamic Republic to Nazi Germany, and the current Middle Eastern situation to the one in Europe in 1938, right before the breakout of World War II. Netanyahu reiterated this view in a speech last week at a ceremony to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, at which he asserted, "Those who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration have learnt nothing from the Holocaust."

The efforts to draw parallels of that sort have been refuted by some of the most prominent Israeli and Jewish figures. On Thursday, Israeli President Shimon Peres explicitly dismissed Netanyahu's comparison of Ahmadinejad and Iran to Hitler and Nazi Germany. In an interview with the Ynet website, he said, "It's not the same thing. [The] Holocaust is one thing and Iran is another. The comparison is out of place."

On April 19, the day after Netanyahu's Holocaust Remembrance Day speech, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel also rejected his assertions. When he was asked about the prime minister's invocation of parallels between Iran and Nazi Germany, Wiesel said, "Iran is a threat, but can we say that it will make a second Auschwitz? I don't compare anything to the Holocaust."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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