Ex-Mossad chief: Netanyahu allies worse than KKK, overhaul is his ‘master plan’

Tamir Pardo claims PM is in control, it’s an ‘urban legend’ he’s under thumb of extremist partners; says potential flight of doctors more worrying than reservist refusals

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with outgoing Mossad chief Tamir Pardo during a farewell ceremony for Pardo in Tel Aviv on January 5, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with then-outgoing Mossad chief Tamir Pardo during a farewell ceremony for Pardo in Tel Aviv on January 5, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Former Mossad director Tamir Pardo on Thursday offered a scathing critique of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, charging that Netanyahu brought parties worse than the Ku Klux Klan into his government.

In an interview with Kan radio, Pardo said Netanyahu’s government includes “horrible racist parties” that are not far from the world view of the ruling Likud party, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit.

The ex-spy chief claimed that they are even “a lot worse” than the Ku Klux Klan, referencing calls by lawmakers for Israel to destroy the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara.

“The nation is breaking into two and it doesn’t move [Netanyahu], he doesn’t blink, and a second after the vote finished, the look of happiness on the faces of MKs was a horrible thing in my eyes,” he said, referencing Monday’s Knesset vote approving the “reasonableness law,” which limits judicial review of governmental and ministerial decisions.

The bill was part of the government’s efforts to overhaul the judiciary, which have ignited sustained, mass public protests, and opposition from military personnel, business leaders, foreign allies, and others.

“The leader has lost his mind. Nothing that has happened would have happened if the prime minister didn’t lead this process,” he said, claiming it is an “urban legend” that Netanyahu is being led by extremists in the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attend a vote on the “reasonableness” bill at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on July 24, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Someone took the Ku Klux Klan and brought it into the government, and this is what happened,” he said, adding that the fact that Netanyahu placed Smotrich as a minister within the Defense Ministry proves that their views on the future of Israel are not far apart.

Smotrich is a staunch opponent of a Palestinian state, and has a history of making inflammatory statements against Palestinians, Arab citizens of Israel, non-Orthodox Jews, and the LGBTQ community, including once declaring himself a “proud homophobe.” In 2021, he said David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, should have “finished the job” and kicked all Palestinians out of the country when it was founded. Earlier that same year, he said members of Israel’s Arab minority communities were citizens “for now at least.”

“[Netanyahu] is like a horse running to a goal with blindfolds and ear muffs,” Pardo said, adding that Netanyahu has changed from the cautious leader that he knew during his time as Mossad director in 2011-2016.

Asked about a bill submitted by Likud MKs to split the powers of the attorney general, which the party claimed Wednesday Netanyahu was not involved in, Pardo asserted: “I have no doubt he knew. This is his master plan. He is leading it.”

The bill would hand over the attorney general’s ability to prosecute members of the cabinet to the state attorney. A serious push from the government to strip the attorney general’s office of its powers would likely set off further fierce backlash against the coalition.

Riot police try to clear demonstrators with a water cannon during a protest after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government passes the first law to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, July 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

While Pardo said there is no doubt that Netanyahu received a mandate to govern in the last election, he stressed that no prime minister commands a mandate “to change the social contract” of the State of Israel.

Asked about reservists refusing to perform their volunteer service in the military in protest of the overhaul, Pardo said that recent reports that thousands of doctors were seeking advice to relocate abroad were “more horrifying and scary than the story of the army.”

Pardo said that even if there is a major war in the region, “there is no way” that the country faces an existential military threat.

“If we lose high tech, if we lose the doctors, if we lose the academics, the country won’t be here,” he said, clarifying that Israel may end up looking like a central African country “that’s stuck in the ’60s of the last century.”

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