In a widening offensive against the six-year rule of Benjamin Netanyahu, a group of former security commanders criticized the prime minister Wednesday for allegedly ruining ties with the US, mishandling the summer’s war against Hamas, and bungling the country’s approach to the international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
“You and only you turned the United States from an ally to an enemy,” former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit said of Netanyahu at a Tel Aviv press conference organized by Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group of former officers campaigning against the prime minister.
Shavit was the second former Mossad chief to express strong opposition to Netanyahu’s policies in recent days, coming close on the heels of Meir Dagan’s scathing media campaign this past week against the Likud prime minister. The pair joined a growing chorus of former defense officials who have criticized the prime minister’s policies, particularly on Iran.
Shavit, who helmed the Mossad 1989-96, declared that Israel’s position regarding the international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program has been “one big mistake,” which has already “caused damage to the State of Israel and I’m sure it will cause difficulties and damage in the future.”
Calling the case “so simple,” he added that there is a common enemy – Iran – that has brought the world powers together “and we, the smallest superpower among those other powers, we find ourselves outside the game,” meaning that rather than “joining forces together to represent the interests of the state from within the coalition that fights the bad guys, we find ourselves fighting against our greatest allies.”
Pushed to widen his critique to recent events, Shavit said that the assassination of Jihad Mughniyeh in the Syrian Golan Heights in January was “stupidity” and that as someone who was well acquainted with Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s military commander and father of Jihad, who was assassinated in 2008, “I know the difference between the two of them.”
The father, he said, was “head and shoulders above the rest,” an enemy that had to be taken into account at every turn; “and the son — no.”
The strike that killed Jihad Mughniyeh and an Iranian brigadier-general was reportedly carried out by Israel on January 18 and led to a Hezbollah response that killed two Israeli soldiers 10 days later and could have sparked a wider, unwanted conflagration, he said.
“After I was labeled a messianic traitor, I will no longer apologize,” Shavit said, turning his criticism to what he called the Netanyahu administration’s failure to defend residents of southern Israel.
“Why did you release 1,200 terrorists [in the Shalit deal] after speaking out against [such deals] for years? Where is the personal security you promised to those living in the Gaza periphery? Why, after dozens of years in the Mossad, in which I was ready to give up my life, have you turned me into a traitor simply because I’m trying to find a solution that will put Israel on a new path?” he demanded.
Finally, addressing the charge that the former commanders are no longer in the loop and therefore do not have the information necessary to make informed judgement, Shavit says that “those who say we don’t know are either vicious people or jerks.”
The former Mossad head was joined onstage by a former senior Shin Bet commander and several former general-rank officers in the IDF.
Brig. Gen. (res) Giora Inbar addressed the prime minister saying, “Mr. Netanyahu, speeches without action do not provide security.”
Brig. Gen. Asher Levy, who served in the War of Independence as one of Ariel Sharon’s commanders, said that “the central problem with Netanyahu is that he does not initiate. He is always reacting.”
Levy charged that this was the case throughout the 50-day war in the summer in Gaza and said “a prime minister must initiate…he does not do that because he is unable to make decisions and that is the problem.”
Likud MK Yariv Levin, head of the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Knesset, struck back at the former security officials who went after Netanyahu, saying they were “motivated by a hatred of the right wing and of the prime minister.”
Levin also didn’t miss the opportunity to take a swipe at his party’s main rival, the Zionist Union, by linking the former commanders to its leaders, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.
“Livni and Herzog’s generals already promised us peace and we got murderous terror across the country. They promised that the 2005 Disengagement [from the Gaza Strip] would bring quiet and we got thousands of rockets. They are wrong and misleading time and time again,” the Ynet news site quoted him saying.