Israeli leaders 'addicted to calm' at any price -- Argaman

Former Shin Bet chief: Government repeatedly rejected plans to kill Hamas’s Sinwar

Nadav Argaman asserts terror chief only alive because of aversion to ‘military adventurism,’ calls for resignation of ‘disastrous government’

Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman attends a Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on November 6, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman attends a Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on November 6, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman on Thursday said the intelligence organization had pushed for a surprise attack on Hamas’s top echelon for years before the devastating October 7 terror onslaught, but Israel’s political leadership repeatedly shot the idea down.

The reason Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is still alive, according to Argaman, is because “Israel does not want to engage in military adventurism.”

Argaman, who led the security agency from May 2016 until October 2021, discussed Hamas’s elusive leaders and Israeli attempts to eliminate them at the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv.

“If we had launched a surprise attack on Hamas, we would be in a completely different situation,” he said of the ongoing war against the terror organization, which began when thousands of terrorists massacred some 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7 and seized 253 hostages.

Argaman was not the first or the last Shin Bet chief to try and persuade the government to authorize a surprise assault on Hamas’s leadership, he said, as both his predecessor and successor had pushed the government on the matter as well.

“Yoram Cohen, the head of the Shin Bet [before Argaman], brought it up with me, and I, as the head of the Shin Bet, brought it up more than one time, and Ronen Bar also continued along this line after me,” he said.

Israel has attempted to assassinate top Hamas officials in the past, including at least seven failed attempts on Hamas military wing leader Muhammed Deif.

Two of the attempts against Deif were carried out in May 2021, in the last few months of Argaman’s tenure.

Argaman was head of the domestic intelligence agency under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for most of the time he was in the role from 2016, but served for several weeks under Naftali Bennett in 2021.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen with then-outgoing Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen (R) and then-head Nadav Argaman (L) at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 8, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

He joined others on Thursday in criticizing the government’s tacit policy of viewing Hamas as a rational adversary that Israel could live alongside uneasily rather than seeking to destroy it long ago.

“Israel decided that it will buy calm even if it came with a very high price later on,” he maintained, adding that Israel “has become addicted to calm.”

Argaman called for the resignation of Netanyahu’s “disastrous government,” and blamed it for preventing the creation of an American-led coalition of Sunni Muslim countries.

“It is the main failure that withholds a different future in Gaza from us,” he said of the government. “It is the one that prevents us from creating an American-led coalition with the participation of Sunni countries and acting against Iran.”

According to Argaman, Israel is “acting against the metastases and not against the problem itself — Iran is the target, it is the mission.”

Turning his attention from Israel’s security concerns to domestic issues, Argaman told the conference that the country needs to reexamine the issue of what it means to be an Israeli citizen, especially with regard to the country’s ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors and the draft exemption issue.

“An Israeli citizen is someone who serves the state as it determines, meaning either military service or national service,” he said. “A citizen who will not serve the State of Israel will not be able to vote and will not be able to be elected, will not be able to be a public servant, will not be able to receive budgets from the state,” the former Shin Bet chief said.

“But for that, we need to get rid of this disastrous government, we need a broad government, we need to set goals for the next decade and start to reconstruct what happened to us here, for many years to come.”

Most Popular
read more: