Former Shin Bet chief mulls political run

Former Shin Bet chief mulls political run

Yuval Diskin, Netanyahu critic and vocal supporter of two-state solution, says he’s averse to politics but wants to make a mark

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin speaks in Tel Aviv in 2012. (Tali Mayer/Flash90)
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin speaks in Tel Aviv in 2012. (Tali Mayer/Flash90)

Former Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin said on Thursday that he is “seriously considering entering politics.”

“My cooling off period from politics ended during the last election cycle,” he told The Times of Israel. “I had many offers that I turned down consistently.”

The 59-year-old, who currently owns a high-tech company based in Herzliya, said in an interview that he has been in a “paradoxical process.”

“On the one hand, I really want to have an effect, and I think that I have the tools to have an effect — in policy, in defense,” he said. “On the other hand, I have an aversion from, and a strong resistance to, the political system.”

In November Diskin told reporters he would not enter politics, but on Thursday he said that was “examining these two forces and need to decide which is greater,” he said. “It is a substantive examination.”

Though he has not run for political office, in his capacity as a former Shin Bet chief Diskin regularly and publicly voiced his opinions on political and security issues.

Through the years Diskin has come out strongly against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing the premier of stalling the peace process, overemphasizing the threat of a nuclear Iran and leading a lavish lifestyle at tax-payers’ expense.

Netanyahu, Diskin said in December 2013, should explain “why it is okay to maintain three houses at taxpayer expense, buy ice cream for tens of thousands of shekels, pay 80,000 shekels for water and 6,000 shekels for candles.”

It is because “the prime minister needs to concentrate on the Iran issue,” Walla news quoted Diskin as saying sarcastically. “The implications of a lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are more existential than the Iranian nuclear [program],” he said at the same time.

In the lead-up to the March election, Diskin came out again against the premier for failing to adequately protect the country.

Diskin said he was against the Netanyahu-approved prisoner swap in 2011 that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit released from Hamas captivity in return for more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.

Diskin also criticized the most recent Israeli military campaign in Gaza last year, which he said “had achieved no decisive result” against Hamas.

The former security chief, who headed the Shin Bet agency from 2005 to 2011, backed Zionist Union head, and current opposition leader, Isaac Herzog.

“Why is this the moment to give Herzog a chance? Mainly because Netanyahu has failed in almost every area and because Herzog is the better alternative,” he wrote on Facebook.

Diskin has been an outspoken proponent of a two-state solution, which he fears may be falling apart under the current administration. “What I am hearing from various Palestinian officials with whom I have remained in touch is that they are giving up on two states for two peoples as an option for solving the conflict,” he told The Times of Israel.

This won’t be achieved by diving right into the most controversial topics, Diskin said.

“To go and have conversations on the first day about the Holy Basin and the right of return will destroy the whole story,” Diskin said, using the biblical term for the Old City of Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

“We need to break away from [the Palestinians]. They should live in a state of their own so that we can create in Israel a Jewish democratic state,” he said. “Otherwise, it will turn into an impossible reality. Not in terms of a disaster, but of impossibility.”

“With time the slim chance of a two-state solution will become a de facto binational state,” he said. “It will be very painful and will enter Israel into a serious imbroglio. We have here a glorious nation, and it’s a shame to endanger that story.”

It may already be too late, Diskin added.

“In my opinion, today the idea of two states is becoming unrealistic. Two years ago I was already warning people that we were getting close to the point of no return,” he said, “and since then things have happened that only complicated the situation further.

“It’s impossible to put a Palestinian leader and an Israeli leader into a room to sign a document that will actually be able to stand up. [The formation] of a Palestinian state is dependent upon many factors, including Western nations and the international community, and there must be a push from all those sides to maintain a peace agreement,” Diskin said.

“And that’s why I have been saying for years that we need to strive for a regional solution,” he said.

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