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Netanyahu and Barak: Two 'messiahs' playing with bombs

Ex-Shin Bet chief launches the latest attack on Netanyahu and Barak’s character, warning that they can’t be trusted to deal with Iran. What is it about these two?

This is just about unprecedented in Israeli history, these public attacks on the reliability of the prime minister and defense minister by the security chiefs who served under them. On Friday, Yuval Diskin, who headed the Shin Bet from 2005 until last May, joined the club by describing Netanyahu and Barak as two super-rich “messianics” who are not to be trusted with such a fateful challenge as that of Iran.

Last year, Diskin and ex-IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi were named by ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan as having been his partners in “stop[ping] Bibi and Barak” from setting out on “any dangerous adventure.”  Later, Uzi Arad, who was Netanyahu’s closest ally for 15 years before being forced out of his post as National Security Council head in one of the endless intrigues in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that because Bibi was “easy to scare,” aides constantly whispered in his ear to turn him against their rivals. The origin of his break with Netanyahu, said Arad, was when he began raising doubts about an attack on Iran. Such doubts were also what brought on Ashkenazi’s ferocious power struggle with Barak, and his at-best correct relations with Netanyahu.

So here we have the leadership duo of Israel described as being basically unfit for office by the former Mossad, Shin Bet and National Security Council heads who worked for them for years, with the former IDF chief’s similar views remaining off-the-record yet known to everyone.

Did Ehud Olmert’s military/intelligence heads slag him off while he was prime minister? No. Did Sharon’s? No. Did Barak’s when he was prime minister? No. Did Peres’, did Rabin’s, did Shamir’s, did Begin’s – did any previous prime minister’s security chiefs go public about his fundamental untrustworthiness and unsuitability for the job?

Actually there is one precedent – Netanyahu, during his first term as PM, from 1996-99. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, after retiring as IDF chief, annouced his run for the premiership by saying, “Netanyahu is dangerous for Israel.” Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, who quit the cabinet and also ran for premier, was completely open about Netanyahu’s lack of honesty, challenging him in their election debate to “look me in the eye, Bibi.” Dan Meridor, another senior minister who quit Netanyahu (though he’s come back to him now), announced his run for prime minister by saying Bibi had brought a “culture of lies” to government.

No Israeli prime minister but Netanyahu has ever faced such attacks on his character by witnesses like these. No Israeli defense minister but Barak has faced them, either. Bibi and Barak, in a league of their own. What is it about them that draws out such contempt from such unlikely sources?

I think it’s their own contemptuousness, above all toward those who disagree with them. Each one, as Diskin said, thinks he’s the “messiah,” a superior man of superior intelligence, strength and vision come to save the rabble, not to listen to them, not to respect them, either. Netanyahu shows this in his self-adoration, together with his transparent lying, manipulation of people’s fears and flattery, the last of which he reserves mainly for Americans. He thinks he’s God and other people are far, far lesser beings – useful, maybe, but nothing more.

Barak, for his part, wasn’t always like this. While he was already known in his first term as “Napoleon,” as an extremely headstrong fellow, he wasn’t despised like he is today. It was after his brief stint as prime minister blew up with the second intifada that he seemed to become deeply resentful; he divorced his wife, went off to America to get rich and returned as this imperious, intimidating junta type. If he couldn’t be prime minister again, he’d be defense minister for life. He turned into a cold and scary guy, once storming a Labor Party stage and ripping the microphone out of a party elder’s hand, turning every media interview into a lecture by raising his voice menacingly whenever the interviewer tried to get a word in. Olmert said Barak used to humiliate IDF generals, cutting them off and putting them down, at cabinet meetings. If Bibi tries to cover his contemptuousness with an earnest facade, Barak doesn’t bother; he’s not interested in people’s votes anymore, just their obedience.

When you’ve got two people with serious superiority complexes not only running the country, but planning to start a war that every other head of state and security chief in the world – along with most of those in Israel – thinks is a global threat, then we’re in Dr. Strangelove territory. Strange-thinking people –  “messianics” – are playing with bombs, so somebody has to do something. And so you get the extraordinary alarm of a recently retired Shin Bet director and Mossad head, along with the “deafening silence” of a recently retired IDF chief. The extremity of their reactions tells you how extreme the situation is. (Arad, though, spoke out to clear his name after being accused of compromising national security, not to protect Israel from its leaders.)

It’s natural to wonder how two men who think they’re God can work together, and seemingly so well. My guess is that it’s simple mutual convenience – Bibi wants the best military technocrat he can find who wants to bomb Iran, and that’s Barak, while Barak wants to be defense minister for whoever’s prime minister, and that’s Bibi. But the power lies with Netanyahu – he doesn’t need Barak while Barak needs him desperately, which means, I think, that even if Barak has or will have doubts about the need to hit Iran, he won’t press them with Bibi because his political career will be over.

“I’ve seen them up close,” Diskin told some 50 people in Kfar Saba at a weekly public affairs meeting. “They’re neither of them messiahs and they’re not people that I, at least on a personal level, trust to have the ability to lead the State of Israel into an event of that scale [war with Iran] and also out of it. These are not the people I would like to see holding the wheel when starting something like that.”

It really is like watching a movie, only this isn’t a movie.

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    1. John Yorke

      If Israel, in the persons of Netanyahu and Barak, is going to militarily dispute the Iranian acquisition of a nuclear capability, then it can safely be assumed that conditions in the Middle East will be even further primed towards some apocalyptic nightmare taking place in the not too distant future.

      And yet, after 64 years of conflict and crisis management, the ability of powerful nations, worldwide organisations and well-meaning individuals to intervene effectively in this
      long-standing state of affairs seems just as impotent as it has always been.

      Then who is there that can perform the required intervention?

      The Israelis can’t do anything; far too locked into the situation to be seen as objective or unbiased.
      The Palestinians are in much the same position; all the more so because, by having a less dominant role to play, they do not possess anywhere near the same room for manoeuvre.
      The USA is handicapped by its close association with the State of Israel, coupled with an unwillingness to disengage from the support it gives as the result of such a history.
      The Arab nations will naturally be predisposed toward fellow Arabs and this tends to compromise their impartiality more than somewhat.
      The EU has its own narratives concerning the various sets of disputants and its motives may well be deemed suspect for these various reasons.

      Who does that leave? Canada, Russia, China, South America, Asia, Africa? Too far removed from the scene and lacking, perhaps, the experience and rapport necessary to engage fully in so convoluted a setting.

      That seems to eliminate everyone. Could this be why it’s taken so long to resolve the matter?

      Or could the most obvious contender for the task have been overlooked entirely; the problem itself?
      Does it contain the potential to bring about its very own demise and in a way broadly acceptable to all those parties forever wrangling over its outcome?


      Why not take all the hard work out of ending the conflict and let it administer unto itself the final coup de grace? Believe me, it will be the best and the kindest method ever to come our way.

      Reply to Comment
    2. John Yorke

      Otherwise, all we have left is a power vacuum. And, if we don’t want it filled with more and more pointless violence, then we had damn well better fill it with something else.

      Reply to Comment
    3. blu

      Netanyahu was trying to do to Iran what Anders Brevik did in Norway – it’s the same messianic ‘Islamophobia’ peddled by the Israeli Lobby in the US and Israel itself

      No wonder Anders Brevik is on the record as an admirer of Netanyahu’s Likud party and Avigdor Lieberman – they are the same crowd, they speak the same language, and they have the same disturbed thoughts

      Both Breivik and Bibi need to be put away for a long long time and their cult-member like followers exposed as well and made subject to anti-terrorism laws

      Israel and her apologists are NOT going to get their war with Iran after the top Israelis (Gantz – head of the IDF) and Diskin (Shin Bet) have come out publically and declared Netanyahu as incompetent and as innerly disturbed as that Norweigen Anders Breivik

      Reply to Comment
    4. occupier1967

      just as the left hated bush more than saddam, and hated reagan more than brezhnev, so too the left today hates bibi more than the iranian leadership. while you were all worrying about bibi, iran just hanged another man and is even closer to nuclear capability. the left doesn’t hate evil. the left hates those who hate evil.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jack

      The usual deflecting technique.
      The new criticism by israelis in the government and intelligence clearly show they are fed up with netanyahu warmongering and deception.
      You seems to be sad that the chain of warpropaganda have been somewhat broken.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Witty

      Hard to know what to make of their comments.

      The same was said about Olmert prior and during Cast Lead.

      Neither of them are pacifists by any stretch (even if Dagan is a vegetarian).

      I think it is more than a reasonable statement to comment on the degradation on the former long-worked positive relations with the PA, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, that required careful and skillful cooperative relationships (at least in certain fields).

      Those relationships are far far less confident under Netanyahu. His only luck, reality’s luck, is that they haven’t devolved to out and out war.

      Reply to Comment
    7. occupier1967

      i definitely am very sad. i live in Israel, and a country much bigger than mine is threatening to destroy me. It does not induce happiness.

      as for wartime propaganda, shouldn’t you take your complaints here?:


      Reply to Comment
    8. Jack

      That propaganda wont work anymore, we know who threat not only the regional states but the world in general with their constant threats and actual actions.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Piotr Berman

      I think that there is a big difference between what IDF and GoI do, and what they talk about.

      The main military activity seems to be in the West Bank, mostly in area C where there seems to be a strategic plan for every village how to harass it. Cutting trees, demolishing homes and sheds, kicking sheep, and beating up people now and then is the daily staple. Some people think that this is a part of a large long term strategic plan of ethnic cleansing, and some dispute that. In either case, it is not a glorious pursuit.

      Hence the talk of blood and glory, a large attack that would show IDF to be something more than the most competent village bullies in the world.

      Reply to Comment
    10. annie

      piotr, i happen to be one of those people who believe it is a long term strategic plan of ethnic cleansing. either way, planned or not, it’s what’s happening and israel will be judged accordingly.

      occupier, how fitting you chose to link to an article from 2000, those were the pre internet hasbara halcyon days weren’t they?

      larry, great article..thanks

      Reply to Comment
    11. caden

      Annie, I know that you count Jews in your sleep. You Phil, and the rest of the merry band. But if Israel is practicing ethnic cleansing they really suck at it. Perhaps they should take lessons from the Moslems, who are the true experts.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Piotr Berman


      I think that Anne is correct, but exactly because of your objection I admit the possibility is that the main occupation of IDF is POINTLESS harassment. I find it hard to believe that it is conceived as pointless, and what difference does it make at the end of the day? In either case it is unacceptable, and in either case it is beneath what a glorious military should aim for. Iran, the country of Kings of Kings, is clearly a match for most demanding ambitions.

      Just very recently top generals announced that they are ready for any mission in West Bank, Gaza and Iran. Just look how modest the statement would sound without Iran.

      Reply to Comment
    13. caden

      Come on Annie, the EU coming out against Israel is like Phil Weiss knowing how many Jews are in the international zionist conspiracy. In other words not exactly earth shaking. Or you knowing exactly what American Jews are doing to manipulate the country to their evil designs.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Caden, why won’t you answer the facts? And, for that matter, stop being a cowardly bully and write under your own damn name? What is it, are you afraid to have your hateful piffle attached to you?

      Reply to Comment
    15. caden

      Piffle, I take exception my rotund friend. The fact is that anything that happens among Jews Phil, Annie, and the rest of the crew are on it. Everything. Its really quite impresseive.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Piotr Berman

      Caden, in America there is a strange law against posting that is both anonymous and annoying. Also, raising issues like EU “comming out against Israel” (really??) or Phil Weiss writing about international Zionist conspiracy (really??) or Yossi BMI (????) is rather pitiful.

      Reply to Comment