Spat between Netanyahu, ex-Shin Bet head turns snarky

Yuval Diskin snipes that the prime minister’s inflated expenses are necessary so he can concentrate on the Iranian threat

Yuval Diskin, ex-head of the Shin Bet. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)
Yuval Diskin, ex-head of the Shin Bet. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

Former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin berated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second straight day on Thursday morning, joking that the prime minister’s much-publicized personal expenses were luxuries necessary for Netanyahu to maintain the strength needed to deal with the Iranian threat.

Netanyahu, Diskin said, will soon send his “lackeys” to 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 all because “the prime minister needs to concentrate on the Iran issue,” Walla News reported Diskin saying.

Netanyahu’s expenses received additional scrutiny earlier this week after it was revealed that in 2012 taxpayers footed the bill for water, maintenance, candles, religious items and other expenses at the prime minister’s three residences to the tune of NIS 3,291,263 ($934,221).

In February, the prime minister was heavily criticized after it was revealed that he had received a NIS 10,000 ($2,700) budget supplement from the government for buying high-end ice cream for his official residence from a shop down the street.

On Wednesday Diskin, a long-time Netanyahu critic, said that the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians posed more of an existential danger to Israel than Iran’s renegade nuclear program, comments dismissed by sources close to Netanyahu.

“The alternative to the vision of a two-state solution is one state,” Diskin said Wednesday, speaking at a Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv. He criticized the way the government has handled the most recent round of negotiations and warned that the longer the conflict persisted, the harder it would be to find a solution.

“The implications of a lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are more existential than the Iranian nuclear [program],” he said, noting that the current state of affairs in the West Bank was like a powder keg.

Diskin called for the replacement of the current Israeli government with “a new coalition based on parties that support two states for two peoples.” He asserted that due to infighting, Netanyahu’s coalition had wasted a tremendous opportunity to inject hope into the peace process when it chose to forgo a settlement construction freeze in favor of a prisoner release.

While Diskin stressed the immediate need for a permanent deal with the Palestinians, he said it would very hard for the current leaderships to come to an agreement because there was no trust between them, and he noted that any deal would likely be short-lived without backing from regional players.

Sources close to Netanyahu dismissed Diskin’s comments on Wednesday, saying that “anyone who thinks the Palestinian threat is larger that the threat of a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran, which has made it its goal to destroy the State of Israel, is cut off from reality and lacks any strategic perspective.”

The sources passed off the statements as being motivated by Diskin’s “personal frustration” at being passed over for the role of Mossad chief.

Spencer Ho contributed to this report.

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