Israeli society is heading for civil war and the country must take steps to counter it, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo warned Tuesday in his first public remarks since stepping down as the spy agency director in January.
“The internal threat must worry us more than the external threat,” he told a press conference in the northern Druze town of Daliyat al-Carmel.
“If a divided society goes beyond a certain point, you can end up, in extreme circumstances, with phenomena like civil war. To my regret, the distance [until we reach that point] is shrinking. I fear that we are going in that direction,” Pardo said.
There was more to unite than divide, Pardo told reporters, as he promoted an event next month to commemorate fallen soldiers from the Druze community. But, he added, some people in Israel sought the intensity that came with division, and “there are some for whom it’s comfortable to emphasize that which divides and not that which unites. I can’t put my finger on a group or a leader. It exists within all the country’s groups.”
Some wished to impose their own ways upon others, he added, and this was doomed to fail.
Asked whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solvable, Pardo replied in the affirmative, adding that a two-state solution would ultimately be implemented.
Pardo said the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is crucial to region-wide peace in the Middle East, joining the ranks of retired security men to urge the government to seek a two-state solution.
With peace efforts with the Palestinians stalled for more than two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instead sought to cultivate alliances across the Arab world. In addition to the decades-old peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, Netanyahu frequently boasts of what he calls strong behind-the-scenes contacts with moderate Sunni countries, presumably Saudi Arabia and smaller Gulf states.
But Pardo said these ties cannot develop further without progress with the Palestinians.
“In my opinion, we won’t be able to reach any agreement with any country beyond what we have now if we don’t solve the Palestinian issue,” he said.
He noted that Netanyahu has endorsed the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. “I think he is right and I think he needs to follow that path,” Pardo said.
Although Netanyahu says he supports a two-state solution, he has given few details on where the Palestinian state would be formed. The Palestinians accuse Israel of sabotaging peace hopes by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — captured territories where they hope to establish their state. Netanyahu has demanded the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Dozens of former Israeli commanders have urged Netanyahu to push harder to resolve the Palestinian issue, saying the continued occupation of millions of Palestinians endangers the country’s democracy.
Many have accused him of mishandling the matter, though Pardo’s vague comments stopped short of doing so.
Netanyahu’s office declined comment.
Pardo also criticized the Avigdor Liberman-led Defense Ministry for comparing last year’s nuclear deal with Iran with the Munich Agreement signed by the European powers with Nazi Germany in 1938. History did not repeat itself, he said, adding that it was wrong to compare events that had taken place at such different times.