Time for a military coup in Israel?

The mounting public criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by past and present members of the Zionist state’s defense and intelligence establishments triggered the recall of a comment made to me by one of its former Directors of Military Intelligence. The comment was: “If we had a government consisting of only former DMI’s, we’d have had peace with the Palestinians long ago.”

I must confess (and do so cheerfully) that I can’t remember which of two former Israeli DMI’s said that to me. It was either General Chaim Herzog, one of the founding fathers of Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence who went on to become the Zionist state’s ambassador to the UN and then its president, or General Shlomo Gazit, the best and the brightest of them all. In private conversations with me both men were refreshingly honest.

Herzog, for example, said the following to me on the second day of the June 1967 war: “If Nasser had not been stupid enough to give us a pretext for war, we would have created one in a year to 18 months.”

But it was Gazit who hit the nail of truth most squarely and firmly on the head in one of our conversations.

For about two decades he was the head of research at the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Then, in 1973, he was called upon to become DMI, with a brief to overhaul the agency to make sure there could never again be an intelligence failure of the kind that had occurred in the countdown to the Yom Kippur war. He was, in short, the man to whom the government of Israel turned for salvation in the aftermath of what it had perceived at the time, wrongly, to be a real threat to the Zionist state’s existence.

Over coffee one morning in early 1980 I took a deep breath and said to Shlomo (then Major General Retired): “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all a myth. Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger.”

Through a sad smile he replied: “The trouble with us Israelis is that we’ve become the victims of our own propaganda.”

The latest and widely reported public criticism of Netanyahu (and all of his leadership colleagues, Defense Minister Ehud Barak in particular), was voiced by Yuval Diskin, who retired last year as the director of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, the equivalent of America’s FBI and Britain’s MI5.

Diskin told an audience in the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba that he had “no faith” in the ability of the current leadership to handle the Iranian nuclear threat. “I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings… I have observed them from up close… I fear very much that these are not the people I’d want at the wheel.”

Diskin was even more explicit and damning in his criticism of the Netanyahu government’s dealings with the Palestinians. In response to Netanyahu’s assertion that the peace process is stalled because he does not have a willing Palestinian partner, Diskin said: “This government has no interest in talking with the Palestinians, period. It certainly has no interest in resolving anything with the Palestinians, period.”

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